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European Press Review: "Why Should France Let its Soldiers Bleed?"

Europe’s top papers say Bush’s request for a U.N. bailout in Iraq may fall on deaf ears. After all, why should those opposed to the war be forced to do the cleanup.


Under what terms should UN blue helmuts be sent to Iraq? American or European?

The Parisian paper Le Figaro explained Jacques Chirac’s objection to a U.N. resolution on Iraq by writing that the French president is against the idea of the international community being forced to clean up the mess made by the United States. The paper asked: "Why should France let its soldiers bleed and put the credibility of its diplomacy into question, only to ensure the reelection of George W. Bush?" The paper accused the U.S. of asking for help while at the same time seeking to dictate the conditions for such help. The truth, the paper said, is that the U.S. wants others to carry its burden, which has now become too heavy because it did not adequately plan for the post-war phase.

Berlin’s Die Welt wrote about the possibility of deploying German troops in Iraq, saying that only Islamic countries can provide the number and type of troops the U.S. really needs. German soldiers, therefore, could only serve a symbolic purpose in Iraq. For this reason, categorically supporting German military involvement in Iraq makes as little sense as radically opposing it, as the Red-Green coalition has hastily done. The real issue at hand, the paper argued, is the relationship between Germany and the United States, which has suffered tremendously in the last 12 months. In response to its critics, the U.S. has now taken significant steps towards compromise, and this should not be ignored, the paper advised. Even the German Red-Green coalition government has a responsibility to prove that the overthrow of an Arab dictator cannot keep the West divided forever, the paper concluded.

Austria’s Der Standard speculated that the new U.S.-proposed resolution has no chance, since in the papers words it calls for something that the Security Council has already rejected, namely the legitimization of the Iraqi Cabinet, which consists solely of members hand-picked by the U.S. The paper pointed out that those selected by the Americans for the Iraqi government would have never have had the support of the Iraqi people – especially leaders like Ahmed Chalabi, whom the paper called "the Pentagon’s darling." Before the war, Chalabi had promised his allies to nullify Iraqi oil deals made in 1997 with Russia, China and France. The newspaper concluded that, among other things, the division of power in Iraq also means the division of business.

Meanwhile, Switzerland’s Neue Zürcher Zeitung warned that if Saddam Hussein is alive somewhere, he might come to the conclusion that Bush’s recent appeal to the UN Security Council is a sign of weakness and a first sign of retreat. The president has of course denied this, saying that the U.S. will not be intimidated and intends to stay involved in the rebuilding of Iraq for the long run. But this will be no easy task for the Americans, the paper wrote, regardless whether it moves forward with the present coalition or with a larger U.N. involvement.

Finally, London daily The Independent observed the dilemma of the Americans in Iraq and said that, unless the U.S. is prepared to concede overall authority there to the U.N., other countries -- most of whose populations were opposed to the war -- will be reluctant to help. However, the paper wrote, "the U.S. is not so desperate yet that it would grant the U.N. such power over its own troops." As a result, the security situation in Iraq will take longer to stabilize than anyone hoped and certainly much longer than the Pentagon planned, the paper concluded.