European Press Review: No Respite From Violence in Iraq | Europe| News and current affairs from around the continent | DW | 03.03.2004
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European Press Review: No Respite From Violence in Iraq

European papers on Wednesday focused their attention on the devastating series of bomb attacks in Iraq perpetrated during a holy Shia Muslim celebration.

The front pages of many European newspapers on Wednesday featured gruesome images of the dead and wounded from Iraq's worst day of violence since the war ended.

Shiites and Sunnis were artificially united under the regime of Saddam Hussein observed Milan's Corriere Della Serra, but went on to note that in the new Iraq they were dangerously divided. The paper felt there was a new danger of a civil war splitting the country and believed that whoever was behind Tuesday's bombings wanted to stir up hatred between the people.

Parisian daily Liberation wrote that the murderous bomb attack again confirmed that the war had not ended with the fall of Saddam Hussein. What had changed were the perpetrators and the methods. And while it was not certain who was responsible, all signs pointed to the Wahhibis – the Sunni Islamist terrorists who belong to Al Qaeda. In the paper's view, the Islamic international terror network had found the ideal battleground in Iraq.

For Britain's Financial Times the specter of civil war was now hanging over Iraq. However the paper acknowledged that the Shia leadership had not risen to Tuesday's provocation but had joined with Sunni leaders to condemn the attacks. The joint response followed what the paper called Monday's invaluable compromise on an interim constitution. That spirit of compromise must be extended and institutionalized if there was to be any chance of resisting the many more outrageous attacks that would surely be sent to test it, the paper warned.

Iraq has come too close to democracy to be derailed by this vicious attack, wrote London's The Independent ,adding that Tuesday's violence against civilians was intended to create anger, chaos, and hatred and thus make the country ungovernable for the occupying forces and impossible to develop as a democratic state.

It was to be expected, commented Austria's Der Standard, that, during the largest Shia celebrations, those whose aim was to destabilize the country would attack. The only open but cynical questions were when and where would this happen, and how many people would be killed? It is a horrific lesson in terrorism, declared the daily, that in a climate like Iraq, the largest superpower in the world can only look on helplessly when a suicide bomber strikes".

Moscow's Kommersant suspected it was not Al Qaeda but Shia extremists behind the attacks against the Shia Muslims. It noted that a storm of indignation had been unleashed among the Iraqi Shiites. In its view, if a major clash between the two religious groups is to be avoided, the governing council will have to grant the Shiites large concessions such as direct general elections.