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Europe

European Press Review: Bloody Thursday

Friday’s newspapers comment on the surge in violence in Iraq, just days before the hand-over of power by the U.S. Around 100 people were killed and hundreds wounded in the attacks.

"The day of terror in Iraq" is how Italy’s Corriere della Sera referred to Thursday’s attacks. It described them as a "triumph of the insurgents’ strategy of destabilizing the country in the run-up to the transfer of power (on June 30). The paper added it had already been reckoned with that the violence would worsen in response to this important step down the road to democracy. The editors went on to assert that in Iraq itself large sections of public opinion are in favor of the new government.

June 30 is to be declared a national holiday in Iraq, wrote Il Messaggero in Rome, but the paper said there's a real danger that it could turn into a "day of national mourning." The paper commented that peace in Iraq has never been more remote than now; and it warned that while the international media are celebrating the hand-over of power, for many people in Iraq itself that day may be their last. For this reason, the paper wrote, while June 30 may indeed signal at least the beginning of a change for the better, "for ordinary people in Iraq it signifies just one thing: fear."

Switzerland’s Tages-Anzeiger in Zurich commented that many Iraqis believe the violence will end after June 30. "They have great hopes of the new Iraqi police and civil defense forces," the paper wrote, "which in view of the often feeble performance by these institutions is hard to understand." The main reason, its editors wrote, is that this is their only ray of hope. But the paper also warned that political transformation in Iraq is "doomed to failure" unless people’s way of thinking can also be transformed. "The fight against the guerrillas," it pointed out, "is also a mental and a moral one."

According to Germany’s Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, the truth is that from July 1 onwards, at least to begin with, nothing much will change. "Foreign soldiers will still be stationed in Iraq because the country is not yet in a position to ensure its own security," it wrote. The paper's editors said that extremists would continue to use this as an excuse to launch attacks, and they commented that the latest bombings in Turkey, where U.S. President George W. Bush is due for the NATO summit at the weekend, show that the attackers’ influence is "far-reaching."

Another German paper, the Süddeutsche Zeitung in Munich, referred to "bloody Thursday." Its editors wrote of their belief that there will be no peace in Iraq as long as American troops remain. "But if they withdraw," it countered, "the country may sink into civil war." The paper also reminded readers that Washington aimed to strike against two enemies when it attacked Iraq: Saddam Hussein and terrorism. It commented that although Saddam was caught, terror has been unleashed. "From Riyadh to Madrid," the paper wrote, "it’s clear that this war has not made the world safer. On the contrary, it’s become far more dangerous." And, the editors wrote, "despite toppling the Iraqi dictator, the Americans are now dealing with a country in ruins. What the liberated Iraqi people will get back on June 30 is a land in chaos."

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