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German Press Review: Debt Relief for Iraq

Many German newspapers on Thursday considered the mission of U.S. special envoy James Baker and the decision of Germany and France to relieve some of Iraq’s debt.

Analyzing Germany’s decision to forgive part of Iraq’s debt, the Dresdner Neueste Nachrichten called the U.S. policy a typical example of carrot and stick policy. “The stick is in the hand of U.S. Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz who has announced no reconstruction contracts in Iraq for war opponents. In contrast U.S. special envoy James Baker – currently on a difficult mission through Europe – has offered the carrot and both Germany and France have been thankful to accept it. If both announced a partial dept forgiveness then this is not only a substantial help for Iraq,” the paper argued, it can also be seen as an attempt to improve transatlantic relations.

Die Welt from Berlin agreed, saying that Germany has taken an important step forward because “Iraq is the key for improving German-American relations.” But the paper also called on U.S. President Bush to jump over his shadow now and help Germany and France to take an active role in Iraq. Allowing them to bid for reconstruction contracts would definitely help, the paper advised, arguing that in the reconstruction of Iraq the United States is reliant on broad assistance – “an assistance which can only come from Europe.”

The TZ from Munich viewed matters differently. Of course it is a humanitarian duty to help a ruined country in his reconstruction phase, the paper acknowledged. But it points out that Iraq is only temporarily poor due to the prewar boycott and the war itself. Potentially, however, the paper argued, the country is a very prosperous one as it has large oil supplies. That’s why the TZ suggested that back payment should not be written off but simply be postponed, until the country’s economy has recovered.

Other German papers joined the worldwide debate over the future of captured former Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein. The Märkische Allgemeine from Potsdam wasn’t taken by surprise when Bush demanded the death penalty for Saddam. Bush has used this “punitive measure” many times while he was governor in Texas, and he’s used it for much smaller fish, the paper pointed out.

The Aachener Nachrichten analyzed Bush’s arguments for the death penalty saying: “They are simple and at first sight seem logical. Saddam is a murderer, therefore he deserves death.” But to execute the former Iraqi leader would mean “to cross the border between civilization and barbarism,” the paper argued, concluding “there is no right to kill. And turning down the death penalty would mark a real change of times in Iraq, It would be the signal for a new culture of cohabitation based on right and order - and not on revenge.”