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European Press Review: Kerry's America First

European papers on Tuesday commented on John Kerry's priorities for the United States and the continuing humanitarian crisis in Sudan's Darfur region.

The Austrian daily Kurier does not expect US policy to change as much as opponents to the Iraq war in the USA and Europe hope if John Kerry wins the presidency. The Democrat Kerry, it said, indeed favors cooperation with international organizations and with its allies, but he too would pursue “America first” policies. We can only assume that Kerry would embellish the US claim to power with rather less simplification of matters by painting them all in terms of black and white, less moralizing and less lying, the paper opined.

Under the headline “Blair would benefit from a Kerry victory” the London-based Financial Times wrote: Everyone knows that France’s Jacques Chirac and Germany’s Gerhard Schröder want Kerry to win. The interesting thing is that the biggest beneficiary in Europe of a Democratic victory would probably be George W. Bush‘s most stalwart ally – Tony Blair, as a second term for Bush would remove any prospect of a restored transatlantic alliance. The paper thinks that would be as damaging for British prime minister as for the international system, since Britain’s role as a pivotal operator in the transatlantic relationship depends on the existence of such a relationship.

Another British daily, The Independent, took a more pessimistic line, asserting that whoever wins in November, Blair stands to lose. If Bush is re-elected, Blair is saddled with the continuation of an alliance which is hugely unpopular with British voters. If Kerry wins, Blair must start afresh with a president whose philosophy and priorities may be more familiar, but whom he did not expressly support.

The catastrophic humanitarian situation in Sudan’s western Darfur region, also continued to attract a good deal of comment in Europe’s dailies. After the EU's 25 foreign ministers on Monday urged the Sudanese government to implement a July 3rd promise to UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan to rein in the Arab militias blamed for most of the violence, and to improve security and provide better access for relief efforts, the Dutch paper Trouw thinks Europe’s disinterest is nothing less than scandalous. The fact that the EU is so vague in calling for UN sanctions means the Khartoum govt has been given carte blanche to allow the killing to continue for another two months.

Belgium’s De Morgen says the offer by Britain and Australia – a few days after the US Congress called Darfur a case of genocide - to send peacekeeping forces to Sudan must, against the background of Iraq, be viewed with a good deal suspicion. After all, it said, the two countries declined to say how, what or when. And with every day that passes, new graves are being dug. Darfur needs us now, at once, the paper stressed.