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Europe

European Press Review: Chirac's Diversionary Tactics

European newspapers on Wednesday commented on French President Chirac’s decision to reappoint Prime Minister Raffarin despite a crushing poll defeat and Britain's anti-terror swoop that yielded bomb-making material.

The political left is indignant, the right completely perplexed observed Rome’s La Repubblica. Prime Minister Raffarain is staying in office despite voter discontent that was expressed in the weekend’s regional elections, which could seriously devastate the right wing parties in the European Union elections in June. The paper believed it’s not a smart move to keep Raffarain and wrote that President Jacques Chirac knows this. The paper warned that his decision is likely seen as a scapegoat by voters and said it didn't rule out a swing to the left as a result.

Switzerland’s Basler Zeitung also opined that Chirac is using Prime Minister Raffarain as a scapegoat in light of the unpopular reforms the government will try to push through in the coming months. Chirac has nothing more to lose, the paper said and added that voter demands have fallen on Chirac’s deaf ears.

Picking up on the fact that Chirac wears a hearing aid, Germany’s Frankfurter Rundschau said it’s obvious now that he needs it. The paper thought this is all part of Chirac and his clan’s tactics to keep the spotlight off popular Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy, who is considered one of the few politicians with the charisma needed to help enforce economic and social reforms.

One has to ask, even if finding the answer is difficult, why weren’t voter demands expressed in the regional elections met with better solutions, asked the Bordeaux-based Sud-Ouest paper. Prime Minister Raffarain was sent a harsh warning from voters, but President Chirac is giving him a second chance. The paper thought the least the government could have done was give voters an explanation as to why it made this decision.

British newspapers focused on the suspected bomb plot foiled by police and security services that saw eight UK citizens of alleged Pakistani descent arrested and half a ton of ammonium nitrate fertilizer, a major bomb

ingredient, confiscated.

The Guardian wondered why the 700-strong surveillance force moved when it did and wondered if it wasn’t too soon.

The Independent asked what the target was and speculates on a number of possibilities.

The Financial Times assessed whether the United Kingdom is facing a new home-grown terrorist threat from Pakistani-linked Muslim extremists . The focus had been on Algerians with ties to extremists in France and North Africa.