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Europe

European Press Review: Reasons for Suspicion

European editorials assessed U.S. President Bush’s tour of Asia on Friday. But the discord evident at the International Donors' Conference on Iraq dominated the headlines.

The United States and Britain led the military assault on Iraq without United Nations approval, so the two countries should now take prime responsibility for the country’s reconstruction, according to Britain's The Independent. The paper said the two countries should have realistically appraised the costs before choosing the military option. And, the paper added, there are still reasons for suspicion concerning U.S. intentions in Iraq. While the decision to place foreign aid in a fund administered by the World Bank and the United Nations might have been the right signal, why is it, asked the paper, that oil revenues continue to remain the responsibility of the American and British provisional authority.

The most important question concerning Iraq, claimed France's Le Figaro, has been posed by U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld when he asked, "Are we in the process of losing or winning the war against terror?" "Even critics of the Iraq war know that the whole western world is under threat," the conservative French paper asserted, "that’s why the donors’ conference seems like a good opportunity to rally the western bloc around this major problem." The paper said that it was truly unbelievable that the United States was requesting financial aid so it can cut down on its own contribution, without sharing the contracts on reconstruction or the administration with anyone else.

In a different context, the Russian Nezavisimaya Gazeta picked up on Donald Rumsfeld’s pessimistic statements. The United States is being defeated in its war against terrorism, the Moscow daily commented. "Rumsfeld’s call for reforms of America’s foreign and security policy annoy President Bush. Rumsfeld was the conductor of the anti-terror measures and the one who urged military intervention in Iraq and Afghanistan," the paper wrote, and added: "It’s all the more remarkable that, of all people, it’s now he who raises doubts as to the efficiency of these measures."

As much as Kofi Annan and Colin Powell might have tried, wrote the Austrian paper Die Presse, their appeal to donate more money for a good cause fell on deaf ears. The leading war opponents’ hearts remained unmoved and they did not even deem it necessary to send a delegation at ministerial level -- a sign of their contempt and possibly their revenge, the paper concluded.

Another Austrian paper, the Vienna-based Der Standard warned that Europe should not lose the opportunity to exert influence in Iraq. Iraqis won't benefit from European pride, the paper said. In the Arab world, however, Europeans could serve as a corrective against American policy if they managed to prevent Iraqi reconstruction from becoming a U.S.-led enterprise, the paper remarked.

European dailies also commented on George W. Bush’s recent tour of Asia, which the German edition of the Financial Times likened to the story of the rabbit and the hedgehog. Wherever Bush went in Asia, Chinese Prime Minister Hu Jintao had already been there, the paper wrote. The Chinese president clearly won the undeclared battle for the goodwill of the leaders in the Asia Pacific region, the paper said, because he managed to strike a softer note than his American counterpart.

The Norwegian Aftenposten, however, found Bush to be more cooperative and prudent than before. He was now prepared not to act on his own account but to consult with friends and allies first, the paper commented. "That’s because Bush has seen the political and economic burden of failing to do so."