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Europe

European Press Review: Bush Remains on the Defensive

European newspapers on Wednesday focused on the United Nations and U.S. President Bush's beleagured attempts to secure much-needed support for stabilizing Iraq without compromising his position.

At the United Nations General Assembly debate in New York the Italian daily La Repubblica heard a conciliatory tone of voice but no agreement on either side of the Iraq issue. The United States and France are still at odds, the paper noted, and the next U.N. resolution is in danger of failing because of the conflicting positions. Anyone who expected President George W. Bush to be on the defensive was surely disappointed, the paper added.

The Swiss Tagesanzeiger from Zurich commented that the United States cannot stabilize Iraq alone. President Bush wants the world to help, but at the same time, domestic politics prevent him from showing any sign of weakness. For this reason, he has only promised the U.N a minor role in Iraq, the paper observed and prophesized that under these circumstances he can hardly expect much international support for his request.

The Dutch newspaper De Volkskrant agreed and saw an unrepentant U.S. president, who needs to demonstrate to American voters that he is still in control. This will have its price, the paper warned, and expressed concern that the world is seeing "a powerful president from a powerful country who is slowly but surely finding himself standing alone."

The French daily Les Dernières Nouvelles d’alsace from Strasbourg described President Bush as being unable to maneuver his country out its defensive posture. Even if the U.N. passes the new Iraq resolution proposed by Washington it will not bear fruit. The paper commented that only very few countries will want to supply troops and even fewer will provide funding for an American post-war era in Iraq. It warned that in addition to the military "Vietnamization" of Iraq there is the danger of a diplomatic disaster as long as countries such as the United States and France continue to disagree.

The British business daily, Financial Times, wrote that President Bush called for more mutual efforts by the U.N against weapons of mass destruction, but he showed no signs of regretting America’s right to unilateral action. That is what most other countries are afraid of, the paper pointed out. U.N Secretary-General Kofi Annan said the Bush doctrine had shaken the basic U.N premise of collective security. But, the paper noted, Annan also suggested that the Security Council could work out future U.N. rules for mutual first-strike responses.

Britain’s The Times said Kofi Annan deserved praise for using the General Assembly debate to propose reforms at the world body. But it stopped short of full praise, saying the Secretary General’s aims are "fuzzy" because the reform the U.N. needs most right now is a realistic conception of its own power. The U.N. can establish order and rebuild ruined infrastructures, the paper wrote, but it has never functioned well as the decision-maker in crisis situations. The U.N., the paper emphasized, is not a war machine that can declare war on war.