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European Press Review: Lacking Details

Wednesday's European papers responded to the speech on Iraq by U.S. President George W. Bush.

Bush's speech was missing a few basic elements which could have helped the average American or Iraqi understand what they can expect from him, observed Hungary’s Népszabadság newspaper. It pointed out that the president failed to mention a date for the pull-out of troops, nor described the conditions required for the U.S. to completely withdraw from Iraq. What Bush also neglected to explain was how he intends to win back international and American public opinion, the paper concluded.

Switzerland’s Berner Zeitung also pointed out a lack of information in Bush’s speech, saying that whoever was expecting a concrete roadmap for Iraq was left disappointed. After 13 months of Iraqi occupation chaos, the U.S. has lost almost all of its creative powers, claimed the paper. It argued that militarily, the guerrilla war in Iraq cannot be won. And politically, the U.S. -- in its helplessness -- long ago secretly ceded the initiative to the United Nations.

Sweden’s Dagens Nyheter saw the war in Iraq as a growing domestic political problem for Bush, citing U.S. opinion polls that show the lowest approval ratings ever for the president since the start of his term in office. Growing numbers of Americans are questioning the legitimacy of the operation in Iraq, the paper wrote and added that Bush’s speech on Iraq can be considered as expression of desperation. The White House is now trying to rally additional countries to get involved in Iraq, but this is where the paper saw a dilemma for Bush: It believed that the more support the president is able to gain for his re-election, the harder it will be for the U.S. to win the support of the international community.

For Austria’s Die Presse newspaper, Bush’s speech on Iraq was first and foremost an election tactic. But this attempt to explain the sense in the Iraq war to the American voters was a failure, believed the paper. One can only wait and see whether five additional speeches – planned once a week – will be able to salvage anything, the daily wrote. And it is clear that above anything else, Bush wants to save his re-election in November, the paper concluded. Germany’s Frankfurter Rundschau thought it would have been helpful if Bush had given some signal of Washington’s readiness to truly make a new start. But whether the Iraqis’ broken trust can be regained merely by demolishing the Abu Ghraib prison or by quietly removing top commander in Iraq Ricardo Sanchez as an alleged scapegoat in the ongoing prisoner abuse scandal is more than questionable, said the paper and concluded that Bush was neither ready nor capable of openly acknowledging any failures in his Iraq policy.