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Europe

German Press Review: Armored Foxes to Iraq

The proposed sale to Iraq's new armed forces of 20 Fuchs armored personnel carriers and 100 light military trucks and Blair's speech at his party's conference dominated German editorials on Wednesday.

Is the Social Democratic-Green party government coalition losing its arms exports innocence? asked national daily Die Welt. The paper said that although the machine guns usually on the vehicles would be taken off, they surely wouldn't be used to transport the Baghdad football team. Instead they would carry heavily armed people through territory endangered by explosive traps and snipers. The "Fuchs," as the vehicles are called, is war material, delivered by Germany to a war area and German politicians will have to ask themselves in future what use of German weapons is desired in which contexts, the paper wrote.

Recalling that he won the 2002 election with his anti-war stance, the Offenburger Tageblatt newspaper said Chancellor Schröder has thrown his Iraq policy overboard. The supply of the vehicles is direct support of the allied troops, the paper wrote, and hence a direct intervention in the Iraq war; Schröder broke his word.

The Badische Zeitung of Freiburg wrote that regardless of all criticism of the war, Schröder and Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer agree that the West must not fail in Iraq, because it would be a catastrophe if the country were to descend into despotism, anarchy or religious fanaticism. The armored vehicles are to ease, at least temporarily, the pressure on Germany to get more involved, the paper opined.

The Main-Echo newspaper saw the British prime minister marshalling his rank and file behind him because a third election win is more important to them than moral debates. The discipline in the campaigning ahead would ensure an end to all speculation about Treasurer Gordon Brown replacing Prime Minister Tony Blair. It’s an altogether different matter, though whether the British public will continue to accept a prime minister who can’t bring himself to say sorry for his Iraq policy, the paper said.

The Badisches Tagblatt of Baden-Baden noted that Blair played on his strength and his personality, which brought him to power triumphantly in 1997. Hollow-cheeked, passionately and very openly, he admitted personal mistakes, including that he believed claims about Iraqi weapons of mass destruction. Blair appeared to be resigned to his political fate being linked to developments in Iraq, the paper wrote. All bad news from there falls back on him and the ratings of his party, it concluded.

The Financial Times Deutschland found Blair focusing on the need for education, health care and pension reforms to distract attention from Iraq. Despite anger over Iraq, the paper still saw a small majority for Blair's Labor Party in most polls and predicted it would win.