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Europe

European Press Review: Overstretched in Iraq

European editorial writers focused on the situation in Iraq on Monday. They also commented on anti-terrorist measures after the March 11 attacks in Spain and the latest elections in Algeria.

Many European newspapers were pessimistic about developments in Iraq in the light of the increasing difficulties encountered by the United States and its allies there. “The murderous mayhem over the first anniversary of the U.S.-led ‘liberation’ of Iraq has been bad enough,” said Britain’s Financial Times, “but the violence could get worse as various Iraqi factions and their militia jockey for position ahead of the promised handover of sovereignty on June 30.” The FT also criticized U.S. military tactics in Iraq. "Overstretched, U.S. forces are over-reacting and retaliating with heavy armor in a way that turns the innocent and the guilty against them.” it wrote.

The Guardian, also published in London, looked at British Prime Minister Tony Blair’s forthcoming visit to the United States. “To retreat now,” the paper commented, “ leaving Iraq to almost certain civil war, would destroy the basis for intervention and make absurd any pretence of a moral cause.” The paper said Blair could persuade U.S. President George W. Bush to engage the United Nations more in Iraq. However, it added, “the prospect of a new UN framework for involvement in peace-keeping and reconstruction is thought to be about nil.”

Spanish newspapers concentrated on anti-terrorist measures in the wake of the March 11 bomb attacks in Madrid. El Pais welcomed the level-headedness of Europeans in the face of the apparent terrorist threat. “There is no reason to pretend people are not afraid,” it wrote, “but they haven’t given in to hysteria, or to demands for a curtailment civil liberties or a re-introduction of the death penalty.” In an indirect attack on American policy, the paper added that: “in both Spain and Europe, there is no place for a Guantanamo, beyond the bounds of the law.”

Madrid’s El Mundo also called for calm in meeting the threat. “Islamist terrorism is a very serious problem that can only be fought with police means, not military ones,” the paper wrote.

In London, The Times welcomed the re-election of President Abdelaziz Bouteflika in Algeria. “Not all news from the Arab world is as gloomy as that from Iraq,” it commented. “The peaceful, democratic and relatively fair presidential election last week in Algeria marks a decisive turn for the country." Le Figaro from Paris was more cautious, asking if the landslide vote would not simply entrench a government incapable of reforming itself. On the positive side, the paper commented, “confrontations between the army and Islamists cost only 1,000 lives last year -- six times less than in the nineties.” On the negative side, however, le Figaro took note of the fact that 40 percent of voters did not cast a ballot in certain regions, and it highlighted the slow economic turnaround in Algeria. “Unemployment remains the scourge of the country,” the editorial said. “In reality, Algeria will only change if the army returns to barracks.”

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