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European Press Review: Iraq's Fragile Sovereignty

European editorialists on Tuesday weighed in on the handover of sovereignty to Iraq by the U.S.-led administration in Baghdad.

Britain’s The Independent wrote that the U.S. and British authorities could hardly have wanted their occupation to end as it did: almost furtively with just a dozen people and cameras to bear witness. They would surely have preferred a full-dress ceremony with flags and benedictions. But after 14 troubled months of occupation, the perfunctory handover was perhaps the most appropriate conclusion on offer. It was not an occasion for boasting or public rejoicing, the paper noted.

The Dutch daily De Volkskrant warned that the Iraq left behind by U.S. administrator Paul Bremer is a very fragile construction. The interim Iraqi government is facing a difficult task and has only limited power. It will require a real balancing act. If at least some sort of calm and order is not created, you can forget everything else, the paper wrote.

Italy’s La Repubblica commented that the new government’s best allies are the terrorists. The Iraqis either welcomed or tolerated their attacks against American troops, the paper said, but they in no way condone the indiscriminate attacks against Iraqi citizens. Prime Minister Allawi is viewed as an Iraqi patriot, while Jordanian terrorist al-Zarqawi is seen as the incarnation of evil and is held responsible for all the blood-letting by international terrorists. That image is having its effect and could give Iraq a future, the paper said.

Germany’s Die Welt made the same assessment and declared that the coalition forces were one step ahead of the insurgents. Whoever now throws bombs does so officially against the Iraqi people, the paper wrote. With support from the international community in the form of NATO, Iraq has a real chance. But it also cautions that the interim government has to do what the coalition forces have from the start failed to accomplish; It must integrate the divergent domestic forces: the Sunni clerics, the moderate Baath party supporters and the Kurds.

The French daily Le Figaro grudgingly recognized that at least George W. Bush has kept his word. But to a large extent the progress has been on paper, it wrote, and the risks remain. The real hierarchy between interim Prime Minister Allawi and the new U.S. ambassador John Negroponte remains to be seen, the paper noted. Democracy, in any case, cannot be dictated -- especially not the way Washington has tried to, the paper concluded.

Austria’s Kurier newspaper came to a similar conclusion. Looking behind the scenes on the stage of political appearances, there's cause for skepticism that Iraq will become a "beacon of democracy" any time soon, the daily wrote. Iraq is still not a sovereign country, because sovereignty means an outside power does not make the decisions.

Switzerland’s Neue Zürcher Zeitung commented that the quick retreat of U.S. administrator Paul Bremer is a sign of American failure in Iraq. The Americans have not brought the freedom and order they had envisioned, the paper pointed out. Now, it is up to the Iraqis to supply their own vision of it. But, the paper warned that that which a people who have lived under a dictatorship for 20 years think is freedom and order is perhaps not the same as what

exiled leaders who returned to Iraq in the wake of the U.S invasion imagined.

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