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European Press Review: Exposing Tony Blair

From Great Britain to Italy, Europe’s leaders came under intense scrutiny in newspapers on Wednesday.


British Prime Minister Tony Blair has been criticized for leading his country to war under false pretenses.

In Britain, The Independent took Tony Blair to task for leading the nation to war in Iraq under false pretences. "Exposed: Blair, Iraq and the great deception" read the front page of the newspaper after two former cabinet ministers on Tuesday told Parliament that British intelligence had judged the risk of Saddam Hussein’s use of chemical and biological weapons to be minimal. The paper’s editorial went on to describe the combined evidence given by Robin Cook and Clare Short as "a devastating indictment of the grounds on which the Prime Minister led Britain into war". Tony Blair may well have acted out of conviction, the paper said, "but as in so much, he has yet to admit the possibility that his judgement could have been flawed."

The Guardian took a kinder view. It’s true that the Prime Minister’s credibility has been threatened by the failure to find Iraqi weapons of mass destruction, as well as a botched attempt to reshuffle his cabinet, the paper wrote. But in his speech to the socialist Fabian society on Tuesday, the paper said Blair presented a powerful case for seeing the big picture of the government’s reforms. And if he admits them with grace, the prime minister may be forgiven for the errors he’s made in the last week, the paper concluded.

Russia's Kommersant said the question of whether Saddam Hussein possessed weapons of mass destruction is of fundamental importance. If it turns out that no such weapons existed, Bush and Blair will suffer a significant loss of popularity, the paper maintained.

Like Tony Blair and George W Bush, Italy’s Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi also faced intense scrutiny in Europe’s newspapers on Wednesday.

Berlusconi Prozess in Italien

Italian Premier Silvio Berlusconi addresses the court in Milan, Italy, Tuesday, June 17, 2003.

In Milan where Berlusconi’s corruption trial is currently taking place, the Corriere della Sera said it would be a good thing for the country and its image abroad if the prime minister and the courts agreed to a cease-fire.

The Financial Times disagreed. It said if the Italian parliament decided to grant legal immunity to Berlusconi thinking it would spare their country embarrassment during Italy’s six-month rotating EU presidency, they are badly mistaken.

Austria's national daily Der Standard criticized the international community for failing to adopt a position on Iran's future. The allegations that Iran possesses weapons of mass destruction are apparently insufficient grounds for action, the paper noted, and added that Europe lacked the political will to intervene.

In Paris, where police have launched a massive raid on the Iranian opposition group, the People's Mujahideen, the daily Le Figaro said France, with its special relationship to Tehran, had a particularly important role to play in Europe at this time. The issue of possible Iranian weapons of mass destruction should be resolved with dialogue, the paper commented, not with calls from across the Atlantic for a regime change.

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