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Europe

European Press Review: Make or Break

European papers on Thursday looked at US presidential hopeful John Kerry and the ongoing mystery surrounding the release of two Italian hostages in Iraq.

Point blank, said Britain’s Independent, Kerry must prevail in the first televised debate if he is to keep the Democrats’ challenge alive. It’s a make or break evening and unfortunately, the omens for Kerry are not good, noted the paper. A sitting president always has the advantage because he appears on television more often looking presidential, not just in campaign mode, said the daily.

Le Figaro in Paris was even more blunt: It accused John Kerry of being a boring speaker, but defended his ability to debate. The paper advised him is to focus his energy on the skills he has as soon as possible, otherwise if Kerry continues the way he has been, he’s certain to lose. The daily said it’s a good thing that the first duel is on foreign policy, good for the voters as well to learn whether they are safer with George Bush at the helm or John Kerry.

Anxious democrats are loading Kerry up with advice on what to focus on in the television debate against incumbent Bush, observed Der Standard in Vienna. Its suggestion: Iraq all the way, attack at all costs. The paper said Kerry should take a piece of advice from former democratic presidential candidate Al Gore who said it’s not about presenting yourself as the better debater but as the better president. Besides, it’s not every day that a US president can be attacked for as many flaws as George Bush can, concluded the paper.

Other papers commented heavily on the questions surrounding how and why the two Italian female aid workers were freed by their Iraqi captors. There are unconfirmed reports that a ransom of $1 million (€806,000) was paid.

If that’s true, the Daily Telegraph in London asserted that paying off terrorists won’t get rid of them. Italy rejoices in the return home of the two women and their release will boost the popularity of Premier Silvio Berlusconi, but the paper thought if money was paid it will make the lives of foreigners in Iraq even riskier than they are already. Germany’s Kölnische Rundschau agreed. It said if hostages taking becomes a profitable business, thousands of foreigners world-wide are in acute danger. The paper warned that if western governments give into blackmail tactics, then foreign civilians would be at risk of being kidnapped by criminals in Africa, war lords in Afghanistan or international terror groups who finance their next operation with blackmail money. The paper drew the conclusion that western government would end up funding more terrorist attacks.