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Europe

European Press Review: Iran’s Nuclear Ambitions

European papers on Wednesday comment on the setbacks in the Northern Irish peace process, but also look to the diplomatic success of European diplomats in Iran.

"Iran’s concessions will still not stop it making a bomb," wrote Britain’s Financial Times. While applauding the European diplomatic move, the paper observed that this was just a start. "For the ultimate aim of the European Union trio was to get Iran to abandon – not just halt – uranium enrichment, a wish Tehran shows no sign of granting." It is still possible, the editors warned, Iran is "throwing sand" into the eyes of the International Atomic Energy Organization "to blind the world to its bomb-making ambitions."

Other papers hailed the EU foreign ministers’ visit to Tehran as a diplomatic coup for the bloc. The "three wise men" from the West followed the Geiger counter to Tehran with gifts in their pockets, the Austria’s Kronenzeitung wrote. "With diplomacy and their promise to support the country’s civilian nuclear program in the future, they achieved more than Washington with its show of muscles," its editors concluded.

The editors of Germany’s Dresdener Neueste Nachrichten concurred, writing that combining the pressure of tight controls with offers to cooperate in economic and security matters "is just the right way to achieve the desired results."

Other papers, however, offered more restrained in their praise.

"This is not a purely European diplomatic victory," commented the German business daily Handelsblatt. "Instead of being a single-handed attempt by (German Foreign Minister Joschka) Fischer, (French Foreign Minister Jacques) de Villepin and (British Foreign Secretary Jack) Straw, it was a concerted effort in tandem with the US that made Iran see reason," the paper wrote. "The two have simply shared the tasks among themselves, with the U.S. threatening Iran with a stick and Europe coaxing it with a carrot." Nonetheless, by involving the international community, they have managed to bring about a "clean" solution, the paper concluded.

Though the British press also commented on Iran, the latest failure of the peace process in Northern Ireland dominated the editorial pages. "Protestant leader David Trimble has blown it," opined the left-leaning Guardian newspaper, a day after Trimble put the agreed to power-sharing with the political wing of the IRA on hold. The paper took the view that the IRA’s pledge on Tuesday to disarm, taken together with a strongly-worded commitment by Sinn-Feín leader Gerry Adams represented an "extraordinarily good deal" for the Protestants.

The Daily Telegraph disagreed, arguing that Trimble was right to suspend the proceedings. Instead, the conservative daily blamed the IRA for the current crisis, claiming it has once again failed to provide clear verbal or physical evidence that the war is finally over.

The Times of London criticized British Prime Minister Tony Blair for his visit to Northern Ireland on Tuesday. The paper’s editors wrote that Blair should have let the negotiations take their course without intervening. "The key to this whole stage of the process was not to ‘Blairize’ the deal, but to have it emphatically owned by Mr. Adams and Mr Trimble," it concluded.