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Europe

European Press Review: "If this isn't war, then what is it?"

European editorials on Tuesday voiced concern over whether the June 30 handover date for a self-ruling Iraqi administration is still an option following the latest violence.

"If this isn’t war, then what is?," asked Italy’s La Repubblica. "Every day it is getting more difficult to sell the people in Iraq and abroad the soothing tale of the ‘peace mission’ there," the paper observed. "Every day that brings us closer to June 30 makes the claims more unbelievable that the tanks in Fallujah, the fighting between the occupiers and armed militia, and the helicopter attacks on the Shiite communities in Baghdad are security operations aimed at easing the passage of power," the paper concluded.

Liberation predicted that the situation in Iraq is going to become more complicated for the Americans than it already is. "Rather than hand over power to the Iraqis, the U.S. should increase their troops there," the paper suggested. At the moment, the French daily observed, President George W. Bush would like to be able to rely on his allies, but can't because they are busy considering whether or not they should recall their own troops.

"There is no need for adherence to this artificial timetable in Iraq," Britain’s Independent. Argued. Commenting on the most recent demonstrations and violence, the paper said much of the problems stem from the June 30 handover deadline, which the paper referred to as an artificial date set by Washington to accord as much as anything with President Bush’s election plans.

"The Shiite uprising has created a new front against the coalition forces and has allowed a glimpse of the most terrible scenario for post-war Iraq," commented Dnewnik from Bulgaria. "Up to now it appears to be an act by an individual ayatollah who is testing the limits of America’s patience and strength. But one thing is certain," the Bulgarian paper wrote, "Muktada el Sadr’s first victim is June 30". It is now becoming increasingly impossible that most of the country’s sovereignty can be handed over to an Iraqi government by then, the paper concluded.

The Tages-Anzeiger from Switzerland also doubted whether the June 30 deadline could be met, and suggested that handing power over to an Iraqi interim government might have to be postponed. "The most recent events in Iraq’s Shiite communities could turn into a political catastrophe for the Bush administration, since Iraq is now threatened by the escalation of a smoldering uprising that had until now been limited to the Sunni region," the paper observed.

"Time is a decisive factor," maintained Il Messaggero from Rome. "The sooner political elections take place, the better," the paper suggested. But even better, "the sooner the Americans and their allies leave the country, the better for Iraq."

Kommersant from Moscow said a second phase of fighting has begun in Iraq, and this time the U.S. faces a much more dangerous opponent than Saddam Hussein’s troops who ran when the first American tank rolled in. According to the Russian daily, "over the past days, America’s worst nightmares have appeared threatening the equivalent of a new Vietnam war and an Islamic revolution in Iraq."