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European Press Review: War, Peace and Something Else

The European Press on Thursday issued statements of revulsion after the attack on a U.S. convoy in Gaza, praised the work of the Pope and looked to the stars with the Chinese manned space launch.

Italy’s La Repubblica addressed the worrying escalation of violence in the Middle East and the bombing of an American diplomatic convoy in the Gaza Strip, which marked the first direct involvement of U.S. citizens in the Palestinian uprising. Until the moment when an explosion killed three U.S. embassy staff, Palestinian guerillas had avoided targeting Americans, knowing full well that the United States is the only political and military power capable of controlling Israel, the paper said.

Austria’s Der Standard called the attack “an escalation at all cost”. The paper added that it blamed radical Palestinians who wanted to destabilize the situation and drive a wedge between the United States and the forces of reform.

The Palestinian President Yasser Arafat’s influence continues to wane as shown by the attack, commented Spain’s El Periodico, and that the Palestinian Authority was doing little to rein in the armed Palestinian groups. But, the paper added, it also provides Washington with a new excuse for its veto in the UN Security Council and ammunition for the U.S. and Israel to continue their hardline policies.

European issues concerned The Times of London, with an editorial focusing on Franco-German relations and the unprecedented move by the German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder to have himself represented at this weekend’s EU summit by French President Jacques Chirac. The impressive symbolism of this gesture has not been lost on the public, the paper said. It shows just how far the love relationship between Paris and Berlin has blossomed.

Austria’s Die Presse called the move “an affront” against the other EU partners. It only gives credence to those who have been warning about big EU members joining forces against the smaller nations. And, the paper noted, it dilutes the very meaning of a summit meeting.

France’s Le Monde chose to look to the heavens with China’s first manned space flight and noted that although this heroic deed is essentially superfluous from a scientific standpoint, that should not deter our applause. First, the Olympics and now a shot into space: China is slowly expunging the blemishes of past centuries, the paper concluded.

As the John Paul II celebrates 25 years in his role of leader of the Catholic Church, German editorial writers resisted the temptation to eulogize the pope on his anniversary. Most of them contrasted his efforts to promote world peace with his conservatism on matters of Catholic doctrine. One of the most positive assessments of the papacy came from Germany’s Schwäbische Zeitung which remarked that while John Paul II is not the first pope to contribute to the story of world history, he didn’t do it in blood, but with the power of words, and with the persuasive power of the fundamental values of his religion – freedom, brotherly love and peace.

The French daily, Le Figaro said Karol Woytyla may be very tired and burdened by his many illnesses, but with his unbroken will and great courage he never tires in his efforts to spread his message. All over the world he has worked for human rights and a respect for life.