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European Press Review: Tony's Troubles

European papers comment a report clearing British Prime Minister Tony Blair of misleading his country over the threat posed by Iraq, while at the same time criticizing him about how he made the case for war.

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This report is still causing problems for Britain's prime minister.

Die Welt from Berlin wrote that the report will bring little relief for British Prime Minister Tony Blair since it raises doubts about the handling of intelligence in the run up to the Iraq war. "Can one trust the Blair-government and believe it capable of solving the country’s problems" the paper asked, suggesting that both questions lead to a lingering erosion of Blair’s reputation. This could be the seven year itch, since Mr. Blair is in his seventh year in office, the paper concluded.

The editors of Britain’s business daily, the Financial Times, agreed, writing that British intelligence was misused to justify the invasion of Iraq. If Blair wishes to restore his reputation he should explain how his government came to be so wrong about the threat posed by Iraq, the paper demanded. If necessary, he should offer an apology for the mistakes made in his name, the Financial Times concluded.

The Dutch daily De Volkskrant predicted that the weapons of mass destruction issue would continue to cause quite a stir. Bush and Blair have exaggerated the threat posed by Saddam Hussein to the limit of credibility, the paper's editors wrote. But the paper also pointed out that the fact that these weapons have not yet been found does not prove that they don’t exist or never existed. The problem must be thoroughly investigated, the paper demanded, and this task should not be left to future historians, but should instead be tackled now -- in the United States as well as in Great Britain.

The French daily Le Figaro examined the current situation in Iraq on its editorial pages. "The Americans are slowly realizing that it’s not possible to colonize a country with a different culture. Imposing democracy by force is a contradiction in itself," the paper wrote. U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, the paper opined, wouldn’t dare anymore to compare the "liberation" of Baghdad with the one of Paris, like he did in April -- as his troops are now facing an increasingly worrying armed intifada in Iraq.

After the arrest of 11 Turkish soldiers by U.S. forces in Northern Iraq, Germany's Süddeutsche Zeitung commented that Turkey and the U.S. may have come to the end of their friendship. Although the soldiers have now been released, the problem has not been solved, the paper wrote: "Turkey will continue to want to have a say in what happens in Northern Iraq and is prepared, if necessary, to risk the very foundations of its foreign policy." Turkish authorities fear the breakdown of their country if the Kurds are given autonomy, and the common interests binding Ankara and Washington over the past years have mostly disappeared, the paper stated before concluding: "Sometime and somehow the Turks and the Americans will work things out again. But the relationship will be put on a different basis – and distrust will have replaced trust."

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