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German Press Review: Good Actions Needed

German papers on Wednesday commented on the loss of support for Germany's Social Democratic Party and the fate of former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein after the U.S. hands over power to the Iraqis.

Germany's editorial writers were perplexed that the Social Democratic party doesn't plan major changes to its policy proposals, given that voters gave them the worst show of support in 50 years at the European elections this weekend. The Freie Presse from Chemnitz counsels the SPD to change its current tactic of "moving forward." The paper raises the questions: "What do the Social Democrats stand for? Where do they want to go? What do they mean

by 'fairness' and how can that be achieved?" Chancellor Gerhard Schröder is "providing fewer answers to these questions than ever," the daily wrote and added that it didn't doubt that Schröder has good intentions. But "there are worlds of difference between good intentions and good action." The paper warned that "time is getting ever shorter for the Social Democrats to prevent themselves crashing into meaninglessness."

Neues Deutschland advised Schröder to drop the part of his reform program called "Hartz four" -- the part that intends to "merge unemployment payments with the level of welfare payments from next year." The paper looked back at recent history: "Never has a government tried so cavalierly tried to streamline itself at the expense of the weak in society," it commented. The paper offered the Social Democrats two alternatives: "Either Hartz four goes, or the Chancellor goes."

Recently, a group of Social Democrats did indeed propose postponing the Hartz four reforms. The General-Anzeiger from Bonn interpreted this as a "sign of deep resentment over Schröder's plans and timetable." The only solution "to the Social Democrat's situation" that the paper saw is "in a special party convention."

German papers were also commenting on the pending transfer of power in Iraq. The Handelsblatt from Düsseldorf was concerned about the humane treatment of former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein. It questioned whether "handing him over to the new Iraqi government... is a good idea, because if Saddam doesn't end up in front of an international court, there might soon be a form of justice based on revenge." The paper suspected that the Iraqis might "not shy away from the death penalty."

The Thüringer Allgemeine from Erfurt remarked that "handing over their former torturer to those he persecuted will not guarantee a fair trial", especially "as the new power holders in Iraq have not been democratically elected."