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Europe

German Press Review: Losing Credibility

German editorials on Thursday commented on the British report on government use of intelligence in the run-up to the war in Iraq as well as the arrest of one of Germany's most wanted fugitives in Paris.

Ludwig-Holger Pfahls is a former secretary of state in the German defense ministry who is wanted in Germany in connection with some alleged big government bribery cases. In addition, many people suspect he might know something about the party funding scandal which disgraced the former chancellor, Helmut Kohl. Pfahl's been in hiding for years and it was even rumored that he was dead. But he has turned up in Paris, where he's been arrested by French and German police working together.

The Stuttgarter Zeitung complained how predictable the politicians are. As soon as Pfahls was arrested, the different parties reacted according to their interests. "Instead of considering calmly how Pfahl's arrest can contribute to the uncovering of the scandal, both sides jump straight into the fight," the paper wrote. "A credible attempt to find out the truth would look somewhat different."

The Sächsische Zeitung from Dresden thought it's possible that the arrest will lead to another scandal, but only if Pfahls comes clean. There's a good chance of that, since he has nothing to lose from cooperating with the police, the daily wrote. He's facing long prison sentences for alleged bribery and tax evasion. But it means the old question has come up again, "Could the former government of former Chancellor Kohl be bought?" That'll be tough on the conservative Christian Democrats as the party almost collapsed over the scandal five years ago, the paper concluded.

The Süddeutsche Zeitung agreed that it could be tough for the Christian Democrats. The statements of Chancellor Kohl and the other government ministers before the parliamentary inquiry into the party funding scandal will be held up once again to scrutiny. Maybe there'll be another inquiry, this time in front of a court, the paper noted. But it concluded that the government of Chancellor Gerhard Schröder shouldn't place too much hope on a new

discussion on the failures of the Kohl government to reawaken the voters' love for the Social Democrats.

Regarding the British report into the use made of intelligence by the British government in the run up to the Iraq war, the Berliner Zeitung pointed out that it's clear that there were forces in the government of President George W. Bush which wanted a war on Iraq from the start and used the Sept. 11 attacks as a welcome excuse. That made some kind of sense from the US point of view, but what was in it for Tony Blair, asked the paper. "It looks like it was blind allegiance," was its answer. He's won nothing, but lost the most important thing a politician can possess: his credibility.

The Münchner Merkur was less worried about Tony Blair and more worried about the western world. It said both Bush and Blair have been successful in their attempts to find a scapegoat. "All they have yet to do is to deny they were responsible for anything and turn themselves into the victims of their spies," wrote the paper. There were no weapons of mass destruction. "What's left is the shocking knowledge that huge budgets did not enable the secret services to send one single spy to Baghdad," the paper concluded. "How can the West protect itself against terrorist states?"