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Europe

European Press Review: Civil War in Iraq?

European commentators on Friday focused on the intractable situation in Iraq, where the United States and its allies have been fighting for days to put down radical Sunni and Shi'ite militias.

Dutch daily Algemeen Dagblad from The Hague wrote that Iraq’s future is cause for alarm. The Americans, the paper said, had expected to be greeted as liberators. But now, a year after the invasion to topple Saddam Hussein, anti-American violence has reached a new highpoint. Iraqi security forces did not intervene as militias loyal to Shi’ite leader Muktada al Sadr stormed a local government building. Some police reportedly even changed sides.

In Moscow, Izvestia, went a step further and predicted that the real war in Iraq was just beginning. The paper said the violent attacks in Shi’ite and Sunni regions are now looking more and more like an organized rebellion. The hordes of guerillas are starting to look like a regular army, the paper commented.

Flemish-language Belgian daily De Morgen warned that Iraq is beginning to look like Lebanon. It’s not surprising, the paper noted, that the Iraqi terror groups are now resorting to kidnappings as a new weapon. That has happened in every conflict from Colombia and Somalia to the Philippines and Yemen. But in those conflicts, the paper commented, the reason was mainly mercantile. In Iraq as in Lebanon, however, it is political: the aim is

to drive foreign troops out of the country.

Bulgarian daily Sega said Iraq is on the verge of civil war. The coalition of the willing cannot fulfill its task. Bulgaria’s own troops, the paper wrote, were sent as peacekeepers and not to fight a war. Their presence is senseless, but they cannot leave without a political decision.

London’s Daily Telegraph viewed the critical situation in Iraq as a chance for Prime Minister Tony Blair. In Britain, both those who were for and against the war now believe that troops must remain to try to help create a democratic Iraq -- with or without the United Nations. When Blair meets President Bush in Washington next week, he must convince him that America needs to stay the course. Any attempt to withdraw prematurely, the paper explained, would not only betray the Iraqis, but Britain as well.

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