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Europe

European Press Review: Saddam Captured, but Iraqi Problems Still Persist

The European press on Monday focused on the arrest of former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein, but stressed it wouldn't necessarily make life easier for coalition forces in Iraq.

The Spanish daily El Mundo commented on the extraordinary images of Saddam Hussein's capture, saying "whoever saw the American video footage was surprised at how compliantly Saddam let himself be taken prisoner." The paper noted the irony of his peaceful surrender, pointing out that "he had demanded his followers fight to their death." The paper also observed that the Americans deserve praise for capturing Saddam alive.

Britain’s left-leaning Guardian also rejoiced in Saddam’s arrest, but pointed out that other questions remain, saying that "seizing Saddam was not the primary stated aim or justification for the war. Saddam’s capture does not wipe that contentious slate clean. Indeed, it presents a unique opportunity to establish at last the truth of U.S. and British claims about his weapons of mass destruction and his links to al Qaeda and to September 11." The Guardian added that Saddam's testimony may shed light on his covert dealings with the West, where he was treated more like an ally than a foe before his 1990 invasion of Kuwait. "It is vital that the world hear his full, unexpurgated testimony," the paper wrote, stressing that "Saddam was a horror of our age. But the guilt for his deeds is not entirely his alone."

France’s leftist La Libération writes that "the unglorious manner in which Saddam was captured, without giving a fight, at the bottom of his hole, might now finally destroy the myth of Saddam as Saladin. Even if his role in the anti-American attacks remains unclear, even if it is not the work of his supporters, his arrest will discourage those who have been keeping up violent resistance to the occupation." The paper says the new regime will be aided by Saddam’s arrest, but it points out that the opposition of the Iraqis to a humiliating occupation, the frustrations born from the slow pace of reconstruction, as well as ethnic and religious divisions, remain.

Germany’s Bild Zeitung applauds the Americans' role in capturing Saddam. "Patience and perseverance have finally paid off. The sudden capture of the cruel tyrant, Saddam Hussein, is a deserved American triumph. Despite some mistakes, U.S. President Bush, mocked and attacked by some, can now feel validated in his fight against terror and its manipulators." The Bild Zeitung adds that "Saddam’s fanatic followers' dreams of a return to power are finally gone. Now the Coalition of the Willing has a real chance to crush terror and tackle the peaceful construction of the country. Saddam’s capture shows that the fight against terror takes time. And sooner or later, Osama Bin Laden will share Saddam Hussein’s fate."

And finally, the Neue Zürcher Zeitung comments that "it's not everyday that a dictator like Saddam Hussein is taken alive as prisoner." The paper draws parallels with other deposed and cruel dictators, writing that "one can imagine what would have happened had Hitler been captured and judged in Nuremberg after World War II", and pointing out that considering 12 death sentences were given and ten carried out, Hitler would inevitably have met a similar fate. It observes that Saddam may not belong directly to this category of criminals or mass murderers such as Stalin, Mao and Pol Pot, but if he should be given the death penalty, it would be best if it were handed down by the Iraqis.