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European Press Review: 'You Can't Buy Democracy'

The recent flash of violence in Iraq continued to dominate Europe editorial pages on Wednesday, but some commented on Ariel Sharon's Washington trek and elections in South Africa a decade after apartheid.

"The present situation in Iraq proves that you can’t buy democracy, even with millions of dollars," states La Tribune in Paris, whose editors believe the United States spoke too quickly of freeing Iraq. "The Bush administration’s plans to implement a pro-American democratic government in Iraq that would be a model for the region has turned into a fiasco," it wrote. The paper said it thought pulling out forces in the near future would be next to impossible, since their presence is the only thing that’s holding the country together right now.

El Periódico de Catalunya in Barcelona also agreed that U.S. officials in Iraq prematurely talked about an improving security situation. It pointed out that "soldiers are barricaded behind their fortresses and emerge only to launch operations against insurgents." The paper bemoaned this strategy, which it said was only fuelling the war on terror. "Chaos is spreading, foreign nationals are fleeing. The White House appears to be the only institution ignoring the alarm bells," the paper concluded.

Milan’s Corriere della Sera wrote that the Bush administration isn’t just blind to the situation, "it doesn’t have a comprehensive social and cultural plan for Iraq," something Iraqi citizens had expected. "The insurgents and the kidnappers of foreign hostages all depend on weapons, but the future, theirs and ours," added the paper, depends on political will.

Other European editorials turn their attention to Israeli Prime Minister Arial Sharon’s visit to Washington.

Le Monde in Paris noted how clever Sharon’s strategy is to remove all the settlements from the Gaza strip in order to keep as many settlements as possible in the West Bank. "He’s set up a one sided pull-out plan for Gaza but without giving any time frame," it wrote. The paper's editors believe Sharon’s plan to remove Israeli’s from Gaza is "a good idea but for the wrong reasons."

The old political pro is pulling out all the stops. Austria’s Kurier noted that Sharon is trying his best to convince U.S. President George W. Bush to back his plans to keep some of major settlements in the West Bank. The paper opined that the ex-general is "hoping to benefit from President Bush’s difficult re-election situation over Iraq and the Sept. 11 inquiry, and that he might make use of any opportunity that resembles a success.

Finally, The Independent in Britain looked at the elections in South Africa, reminding readers that just 10 years ago, the world marveled at the queues of people waiting to vote for the first-ever post-apartheid parliament. "President Thabo Mbeki and his African National Congress, have done well in many areas in what could have been a more difficult transition," the paper wrote. But the editors believes that the ANC needs to face up to where it’s failed. "Unemployment is high, the gap between rich and poor is growing and violent crime is still rampant," it said. But the country's biggest failure to date "is not having done enough to end racial divisions." The paper concluded that, although apartheid is gone, South Africa’s politics are not yet either truly pluralist or colorblind.