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Europe

European Press Review: Middle East Mistakes and Offers from Terrorists

European papers had scathing criticism toward Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s unilateral plans for the occupied territories--and George W. Bush's support of them.

The Guardian in Britain wondered which is more astonishing: the White House’s endorsement of Ariel Sharon’s ill-conceived peace plan, or Downing Street’s decision to back it without blinking an eye. But either way, the paper said the Israeli government’s plan to retain settlements in the West Bank for itself and deny Palestinians the right of return to Israel should be rejected as hazardous to the years of negotiations for peace in the region.

The Financial Times wrote that Bush has initiated a dramatic and alarming shift in U.S. Middle East policy, tilting it firmly towards Israel and undermining America’s role as an honest broker in the conflict. The paper predicted that Washington's new stance will inflame anti-U.S. sentiment in the wider Muslim world, which has been urging the Bush administration to adopt a more even-handed policy towards the Arab-Israeli conflict.

Germany’s Handelsblatt said the decision was about oil. It wrote that one of the most important goals of U.S. global strategy is a long-term presence in the Middle East in order to secure energy supplies for the West. That is why the U.S. needs a good partner in the region, and only Israel has that potential, the paper said.

Palestinian refugees scattered across the Arab world can now forget returning to Israel and Sharon meanwhile gets to keep the biggest settlements in the West Bank. De Telegraaf in the Netherlands, said Palestinians are being punished for not being able to keep Hamas and other groups from committing terrorist attacks. President Yasser Arafat is indirectly paying the bill for the September 11th 2001 attacks in the U.S.

Other European editorials turn their attention to the taped message by a man purporting to be Osama bin Laden offering Europe a truce if it "stops attacking Muslims."

But the Kommersant in Moscow scoffed at the proposition, saying bin Laden doesn’t negotiate, he dictates. It thinks the only answer for such an ultimatum is an ultimatum in return. The paper said governments would be irresponsible if they responded in any other way because it would mean they believe promises made by a murderer.

Le Figaro in Paris wrote that bin Laden is trying to pull the wool over Western countries’ eyes. It is illusory to think that after the al Qaeda leader launched an all-out war on the West, it is possible to have a peace agreement with him now. The paper said the only solution is to defeat him.