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Europe

European Press Review: Bush Learns His Lesson

European papers on Friday commented on U.S. President George W. Bush's plan to halt the sale of nuclear equipment on the black market as well as the breakthrough in using human cloning for therapeutic purposes.

Bush got some high marks and some criticism from European papers for calling out against the proliferation of nuclear weapons. On one hand, the papers universally acknowledged that there is a problem in the world. Germany's Neue Osnabrücker Zeitung tried to detail the evidence that the spread of nuclear weapons is dangerous: China admits breaching the ban on weapons of mass destruction, North Korea is playing the atomic weapons card, and Iran is trying to buy time to keep its atomic research going. The paper wrote that there is hardly a day when there is no alarming news about questionable ways of dealing with weapons of mass destruction. The head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, Mohammed El Baradei, also made clear this week how great the threat is, the daily said. The topic should go right to the front of the United Nations' agenda, and El Baradei has found an important ally in President Bush, thought the paper.

The Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung agreed, calling Bush's approach a strong cry for international co-operation and a strengthening of organisations working against nuclear proliferation. In the past, the paper wrote, these organizations have often been searching in the dark. The paper pointed out that the U.N. has said that we risk self-destruction, hopes that the world will become more conscious of the dangers coming from the trade of atomic desperados and their criminal henchmen.

The Financial Times of London wrote that Bush's proposals show he has learnt from the past year. A year ago, his officials were busy disparaging the International Atomic Energy Agency, claimed the paper, for the failure of its inspectors to find a nuclear weapons programme in Iraq. Now that the U.S. acknowledges there was no such programme, Bush has chosen to bolster the Agency, the Financial times wrote. The paper added that the civil nuclear industry will have to subsume its own interests to the greater good. It praised Bush's idea that the 40 countries that make up the Nuclear Suppliers Group should henceforth only sell technology to upgrade or recycle nuclear fuel to those countries that already have this capacity.

The Berner Zeitung also had no problem with arguing against the nuclear black market. But the paper said that it's hard to praise Bush's plan, because he has a problem with credibility. The U.S. has devoted itself to billion-dollar defence development, the paper pointed out, and at the same time calls on abstinence from the rest of the world. And the Bush administration has also rejected one of the world's most important disarmament agreements: the 1997 Convention on the Ban of Anti-Personnel Mines.

The news from South Korea that researchers had made a breakthrough in human therapeutic cloning is something that the Independent of London cheered. The beginning of therapeutic cloning, the paper wrote, is potentially as vast a human achievement as organ transplantation, the

contraceptive pill and even penicillin. The reason for these wildly polarized responses, the daily thought, is that the human cloning debate straddles a vast fault-line in our culture. On one side are the defenders of Judaeo-Christian ethics. On the other are those who are trying to move beyond them. The Independent took the second view and said that it is time for us all to decide whether we are on the side of the doctors, or that of the Bible-brandishers trying to thwart them. But the Mannheimer Morgen was distrustful of the researchers. Nobody knows what is happening in the laboratories of the scientists wanting to clone people -- and certainly there are enough of them, it wrote. The hope of going into the history books of science is still bigger than the probability of successfully creating a heart muscle from an embryonic stem cell, added the paper. The technical hurdles for the researchers are still high, the paper continued.