European Press Review: Syria and the Anti-Terror Coalition | Europe| News and current affairs from around the continent | DW | 29.04.2004
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European Press Review: Syria and the Anti-Terror Coalition

On Wednesday, European papers examined the implications of Tuesday’s car bombing outside a former U.N. building in the Syrian capital Damascus. Four people were killed in the ensuing gun battle with police.

All kinds of extremist and terrorist organizations have long found a haven in Damascus, asserted the Russian daily Kommersant. In return, it said, the terrorists left Syria in peace and only carried out attacks outside the country. Now, though, the paper commented, Damascus has also become a victim of international terrorism and has joined the anti-terror coalition.

Damascus has certainly cooperated with the United States in the fight against their common enemy, the terrorist network al Qaeda, wrote the Salzburger Nachrichten in Austria. But despite Syria’s denials, there’s plenty of evidence that extremists are slipping across its porous border with Iraq, and according to the paper, it’s the ambiguous position the Syrian regime has adopted towards militants that has given them room to maneuver. The daily commented that this could now endanger the regime itself, which has long been one of the most stable in the region.

Politiken in Denmark said that while the Syrian dictatorship has a long record of protecting international terrorists, this doesn’t mean it’s acceptable to bomb its people. Syrian society needs economic growth, modernization, better communications and cultural openings to the outside world, the paper commented, but it reasoned that all these are being blocked both by the tough dictatorship and by the ongoing protection it provides for terrorists. The daily said that the regime has to slacken its grip, make way for a new system, and show terrorists the red card.

The French daily La Croix wrote that terrorism has become a kind of automatic reflex for radical minority groups who want to make themselves heard. The paper called to mind the many conflicts and conflagrations currently raging across the planet and asked: where is the fireman who can put them out?

Young Islamic extremists in southern Thailand launched attacks on around 15 police and army posts on Wednesday. Over 100 of the rebels were killed, around 30 of them when government troops stormed a mosque. Il Messaggero in Italy wrote that the young rebels launched their attack virtually unarmed, yet well-coordinated, which suggests two things: that they were probably driven by religious or political conviction, and that they had clearly been well-trained. The question, the paper said, is: by whom?