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European Press Review: The Question of Black Gold

Developments in Iraq and the OPEC meeting aimed at increasing oil output were the main topics in Thursday’s European editorials.

Terror is the most effective weapon in preventing peace and democracy, wrote Denmark’s Berlingske Tidende. The Iraqi people, the paper continued, have the enormous responsibility of making life as difficult as possible for the terrorists. The Danish paper suggested it would be naïve to believe that terror against Americans and other foreigners is in the interest of Iraqis.

Austria’s Die Presse commented that it is not easy to see a ray of hope in the thick fog of chaos and violence in Iraq – but if you look closely, you can see it. The paper observed that the country has an interim government and a president. And that, the Austrian daily concluded, is a success in view of the unfavorable circumstances.

Russia’s Nesawissimaja Gaseta doubted the Iraqis would be given the right to decide about the presence of occupying troops. Presenting the issue to the UN security council wouldn’t help, as the US could put in its veto, the paper said, and added it didn't look like the Iraqi leaders wanted a quick exit for foreign troops, either. The paper went on to quote an American expert: every Iraqi politician is a target per se, and for the time being, only the occupying troops can protect them.

Elsewhere, the papers turned to the current fears surrounding the world's oil industry. OPEC is convinced, according to L’Echo from Belgium, that in the current situation, the main problem is not supplying the market as much as it is the feeling of a possible shortage. Without a doubt, the paper added, increasing the oil output will not be enough to make oil prices drop.

Britain’s The Guardian said deeper fears arose not from a current shortage of oil, but from the nightmare scenario in which Saudi oil production would be taken out by a terrorist attack or a regime change. This has moved from being fanciful, the paper pointed out, to being quite possible. The paper continued that, in theory, even a ten percent fall in output need not have a catastrophic effect because part of the gap could be made up by increased output elsewhere plus urgent conservation measures within consuming countries. But that, the British paper maintained, does not take full account of the destructive effect that rocketing oil and commodity prices would have on fragile consumer confidence.

Germany’s Westfälische Nachrichten agreed, saying the fear remains that recurring attacks in Saudi Arabia could destabilize markets. The Americans, the paper believed, aren’t available as a protective power, as Washington is too preoccupied in Iraq. And that, the paper commented, is the dilemma and pointed out that the world’s second-largest oil reserves after Saudi Arabia lie in Iraqi soil. The German paper was convinced the reserves would be more

than enough to quench the enormous thirst for oil in the U.S., and even booming China -- but the facilities are in a desolate shape and are not used. A basic turnaround on the markets, the paper concluded, is not to be expected soon.