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Europe

European Press Review: Still America's Prisoner

European editorials on Thursday discussed the conflict in Sudan as well as the significance of the beginning of court proceedings against the former Iraqi dictator, Saddam Hussein.

La Repubblica from Rome called it “the first action for the restored sovereignty in Iraq.” But it described that sovereignty as “merely formal” and said it has yet to be tested. Handing over Saddam Hussein from U.S. to Iraqi authority is a gesture, the paper noted.

The Czech paper Pravo saw the gesture as lacking in credibility. It said the official handover of power from the occupiers to the Iraqi government was itself odd, with Iraq's U.S. administrator, Paul Bremer, handing over power in secret and escaping the bloody chaos in a helicopter. But the handing over of Saddam Hussein has even less credibility, the daily wrote: After all, once he’s been questioned by the Iraqi authorities, where does he land up? In an American prison.

The German paper die tageszeitung was also sceptical. The trial won’t have legitimacy if it’s run under the authority of the current unelected regime. Only if the tribunal is set up under the authority of a freely elected government will it come out from under the shadow of the U.S., the daily concluded.

Finally on this topic, the regional French paper Ouest France took a more positive view. One of the worst tyrants in the middle east will receive all legal guarantees, it said. That’s more than the Kurds got, who were gassed at Saddam’s command, or the Iraqi and Iranian soldiers who were sent to an endless slaughter, or those who died from the torture they received in the cellars of the political police. Saddam however will get a real trial in front of a real court. And that's good, the paper wrote.

The horrors of Darfur in the west of Sudan, where government-backed militias have been carrying out a campaign of destruction, have finally begun to involve the world’s major political players, with both U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell and U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan visiting Sudan for talks with the government. For months the world has been soft-pedalling the issue, until now there’s a likelihood that a million people may die.

Under the headline, “World slowly wakes up to a catastrophe,” the British Daily Telegraph said: “The outside world, or more precisely the United States, is at last stirring itself to make amends for this scandalous procrastination.” Sudan was hoping that it could get away with its actions in the west after it had signed a peace deal with rebels in the south, the paper continued. But “the two-day visit to Sudan by such a senior American official has served notice to Khartoum that Darfur is now the key to its relationship with Washington,” according to the daily. The Norwegian Aftenposten pointed out that the international community’s efforts contributed to the resolution of the conflict in the south of Sudan, which shows that efforts put in to mediation can pay off. But it’s also true that the two sides in a conflict must show good will, if a solution is to be found, the paper said. Now it’s up to the Sudanese government to react positively to the demands coming from around the world. They have to do so now, the daily commented.