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European Press Review: Politics Take a Backseat

European editorialists took a closer look at Friday’s earthquake in Iran and weighed in on the consequences of such catastrophes for the developing world.

Britain’s The Guardian compared and contrasted the Iranian earthquake with one that happened only a week earlier in California. Although the shakes in the United States reached the same intensity on the Richter scale as the quake in Iran, there was a striking difference between the destruction the two left behind. Whereas few buildings were damaged in California, around 80 percent of all structures in the city of Bam collapsed, the paper noted. It pointed out that both people in California and Iran live with the ever-present possibility of earthquakes, but only the former is properly prepared by enforcing strict building codes. In Iran, intense population growth, inadequate building techniques, and lack of regulations made Bam a disaster waiting to happen. The Guardian was convinced that the tragedy was worsened by the failure of the Iranian state to prepare for it.

Spain’s El Mundo, on the other hand, defended the Tehran government, arguing that no country, especially a developing one, is able to handle such a large scale catastrophe. Its editorialist even went so far as to suggest that the European Union create a specialized multinational force that could react to these kinds of disasters. The paper argued it wouldn’t cost that much and with a situation like in Iran, the effects would be immediate.

Moscow’s Russki Kurjer looked at how many countries, Russia and the United States included, have answered Iranian President Mohammed Khatami’s call for help. "In view of such a disaster, politics takes a back seat, even if Washington did label Tehran as part of the ‘axis of evil’," the paper noted.

Other European editorials cast a critical eye on the current political situation in Italy.

France’s Le Figaro referred to Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi as "a disputed head of government whose style and lack of clarity annoys many." Over the last 15 years, the paper said, many important personalities have become rich in fraudulent ways. "Even relatively relaxed Italians are asking themselves what kind of society they are living in." The paper wondered if the parcel bomb attack on European Commission President Romano Prodi, a prominent figure in Italian politics, was a political accident. If that’s the case, it wrote, then peace will return. If not, it could also indicate a larger crisis in Italian politics, and that could be potentially very serious, the paper concluded.

When most Italian politicians open a Christmas package unchecked, it’s a harmless pleasure. When Romano Prodi does the same, it’s unfathomable carelessness, chided Switzerland’s Basler Zeitung. Prodi, who often paints himself as an ordinary citizen, goes everywhere in Brussels with heavy protection, which is why the paper found it unbelievable that a parcel bomb could so easily land on the desk of the European Commission’s president.