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Europe

European Press Review: Bush's Tight Rope Act

U.S. President Bush’s Sunday night speech, in which he urged the international community to settle differences over Iraq and support American efforts, continued to attract the attention of European editors Tuesday.

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Overburdened and under pressure -- U.S. peacekeepers in Iraq.

Spanish paper El Pais said President Bush’s speech was a pessimistic one. By pleading for extra troops as well as more funds to secure peace in Iraq, the daily wrote, U.S. President George W. Bush has conceded that his strategy has failed. It wasn't a complete concession, but Bush's speech stands in stark contrast to the arrogance of Pentagon Chief Donald Rumsfeld who says the situation in Iraq is getting better everyday, the paper opined.

According to the Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera, Bush has the formidable task of convincing the American public just 14 months before U.S. elections that the Iraq war was justified, that it's still possible to form an alliance with the international community and above all that the 87 billion dollars spent on Iraq so far were worth it. The paper reminded readers that Bush's father spent a mere nine billion dollars on the first Gulf war with the international community picking up the rest of the bill.

London’s Financial Times said President Bush expressed his belief that we are rolling back the terrorist threat to civilization not on the fringes of its influence, but at the heart of its power. According to the broadsheet, if there is any chance of retrieving the failure of postwar Iraq which is already dreadfully near – this rose tinted and information deficit analysis should be rejected. It's now beyond reasonable doubt that the present set up cannot and will not work.

Another London-based daily, The Independent, said there was much to take exception to in President Bush's address. But chiefly it was the mini-lecture to those many countries that opposed the war about their supposed obligations. This is hardly the tone and words to convince other countries to risk their troops in the inhospitable terrain of Iraq, the daily noted and added – it's worth asking whether those foreign governments that opposed the war have any duty to help Mr Bush in a way that could improve his re-election chance in 2004.

Paris-based Les Echoes wrote that bad omens are appearing in Washington. Bush's father who was hailed all over the world as a peacemaker, failed to win elections because he had not recipe for success when it came to domestic economics, the paper said. Son George could overcome these international and unemployment hurdles because he doesn't have a strong opponent. But the next few months will be critical, the daily cautioned.

Norwegian daily Aftenposten said it was obviously a President under extreme pressure who appeared on television on Sunday. Nothing is left of Bush's distinct confidence in his own strength, nothing is left over from the claim that the U.S. has to free the world from Iraq's weapons of mass destruction program, the paper wrote. What remains however, the daily opined, is Bush's strong reluctance to allow the international community to solve the problem that the Americans can't.

Moscow's Kommersant said it sounded paradoxical, but Iraq could still help Bush gain the extra vote to win the elections. If the U.S. succeeds in getting the entire world to help rebuild Iraq the President will stand in a different light. He won't be simply a fearless warmonger but a skilled diplomat, the paper wrote.