Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi’s surprise announcement that his country would drop its weapons of mass destruction programs dominated German editorial pages on Monday.
"After the demythologization Saddam Hussein, this is the second Christmas present American President George Bush and British Prime Minister Tony Blair have put under their Christmas tree," wrote the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung. But the paper added, that Libya’s move also "shows that opponents of the Iraq war were premature in saying that America’s war on terror prompt so-called rogue states to start developing weapons of mass destruction."
The Süddeutsche Zeitung viewed the Libyan leader’s decision to abandon his country’s weapons program "as the final stone in a bridge Gadhafi has been building towards the West for years." Other steps in this process included Gadhafi’s help in freeing Western hostages in Indonesia and the Sahara, the extradition of two suspects in the Lockerbie-bombing and the financial compensation of relatives of those who died in the terrorist attack on a plane over Scotland.
In a similar vain the Financial Times Deutschland observed that Gadhafi has changed in recent times. But his metamorphosis didn’t come all that voluntarily, argued the paper. "Since the end of the Cold War he hasn’t been able to count on Moscow’s help anymore. And in Iraq he could see how the U.S. treated disagreeable dictators. The former pariah of the world community saw that ultimately, cooperation pays off," the paper concluded.
The Kölner Stadt Anzeiger found other motives in the decision: a decade of international sanctions against Libya. The country, the paper’s editors wrote, "urgently needs international investment in its ailing infrastructure, and since Gadhafi lacks the money to continue his rudimentary weapons program, he instead chose to present himself as a pragmatist." This gesture works to his advantage and has lead to an unexpected triumph for George Bush and Tony Blair, it wrote.
German dailies also commented on a controversial statement by German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder, who has called on Germans to ostracize their fellow countrymen who avoid paying taxes by moving abroad.
The mass circulation daily Bild wrote that instead of calling those who leave the country to evade German taxes unpatriotic, the German chancellor should instead "give incentives for those people to return to Germany. This also applies to those who leave for other reasons: academics who work at universities in the United States, students who prefer an English degree or scientists who find it easier to work under liberal laws and regulations in other countries."
The growing number of people who opt to evade German taxes is not a sign of noble mindedness, argued the Dresd ner Neueste Nachrichten. Nonetheless, the paper called on its readers to take a look at the root cause: "With a tax level up to 50 percent, it’s little wonder that resistance is growing and that people are looking for ways to avoid paying so much."