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European Press Review: Keeping Up Appearances in London

The bulk of editorial comment on Thursday was devoted to U.S. President Bush's speech in London the day before, in which he defended the use of force against "evil."

U.S. President Bush outlined three pillars of U.S. foreign policy in his keynote speech in London on Wednesday, the Italian paper Corriere della Sera noted. He spoke of the importance of international organizations being equal to the challenges facing the world, of the willingness of free nations to restrain aggression and the global expansion of democracy. But this speech, the paper said, was in reality a warning to "old Europe" containing just one surprise: "a clear reminder to Israel to end its daily humiliation of the Palestinians."

The Dutch paper Algemeen Dagblad wrote that photos of a meeting with the British monarch may go down well in the United States, but criticism of Bush is growing even there, and British Prime Minister Tony Blair cannot afford to be seen accepting everything Bush says without uttering a word of criticism. "This state visit has turned into an uneasy exercise in keeping up the veil of appearances, even though present reality doesn't permit anything to be kept hidden anymore," the paper said.

In a similar vein, The Financial Times said Bush and Blair are two world leaders seeking to perform a policy U-turn on Iraq without ever admitting they got it wrong in the first place. Unless they do so they will only get it wrong again. Of course, the FT wrote, it would be naive to expect any political leader to publicly admit mistakes, especially on such a fundamental issue as going to war. But can they even admit them to each other? the paper asked.

Like the Financial Times, Germany's Handelsblatt carried a front-page picture of Bush reviewing a guard of honor. But for Handelsblatt devoted its attention to the U.S. currency rather than the U.S. president. "Weak dollar costs German companies billions," warned the paper in a headline. It quoted Michael Rogowski, president of the influential Federal Association of German Industry as saying the pain threshold had already been crossed. The euro temporarily climbed to a record $1.20 on Wednesday. In a front-page commentary, the Handelsblatt said a controlled devaluation of the dollar now runs the risk of turning into a steep fall.

"Nobody disputes that a gentle decline in the dollar would ease the massive problems facing the United States. Imported inflation would help reduce public and private debt and the current account deficit would shrink, if the U.S. exports more goods -- made more competitive by a cheaper dollar," Handelsblatt wrote. It went on to say that the probe by U.S. federal prosecutors into fraud on the New York foreign exchange market is damaging confidence in the U.S. financial sector. That, too, is pushing the dollar downwards. The paper said the dollar's downward trend was could also be attributed to a drop by 90 percent in the volume of trading in American shares in September, as foreign investors withdrew their capital and fears of protectionism.

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