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Europe

German Press Review: Rau To Retire

German President Johannes Rau, who serves as the country’s official head of state, has decided against another run for the office. German editorialists reflect on Rau’s performance and offer up mixed reviews.

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German President Johannes Rau

The Süddeutsche Zeitung had only praise for Rau in its Friday edition. "Rau carried out his job as president smartly and pleasantly," the editors wrote. "Rau always wanted to serve a second term. But the times didn’t co-

operate with him. At his age, he has to think about the risk to his health. And politically, he has to think about the risk that he might get voted down. We wish that his respectable performance could have been recognized across party lines, with an extension into a second term."

But the Lausitzer Rundschau newspaper in Cottbus offered a more critical perspective. "Anybody who has observed Johannes Rau in the last few months has got to wonder if five more years would have been good for the 72-year-old man," the paper wrote. "But he himself didn’t recognize this fact, and gave the impression that he was

nurturing further political hopes. This throws a kind of shadow over an otherwise generally respectable presidency. Now that Rau has announced he’s leaving, the gates are open for nominations."

In other topics, the new proposal from the United States for a resolution on Iraq has sparked heated commentary. Die Welt, a newspaper from Berlin, wrote that "even the toughest critics of American political decisions have to admit that George W. Bush is going right up to the United Nations and changing the previous plan. Iraq needs to be set on a course of self-administration, in accordance with at least part of the U.N. mandate."

The Offenbach Post, also pointed to what it described as a turnaround in the U.S. approach. "After their so-called victory," said the paper, "the allies gave the UN the cold shoulder. But now the tide has turned. Now that GIs are coming home in body bags and the costs of the Iraq adventure are climbing into astronomical figures, Washington is looking for the support of the world community. It’s a declaration of bankruptcy. The superpower has overextended itself. This embarrassing confession is also a personal low point for George W. Bush. It puts him under unavoidable pressure in the current race for the White house."

German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder and French President Jacques Chirac met Thursday and discussed the possibility of putting more European soldiers in Iraq. Commenting on the meeting, the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung wrote: "France isn’t actually refusing to help militarily in the peacekeeping, stabilizing and rebuilding of Iraq. But France is putting big conditions on that help. The German government, on the other hand, has completely refused to provide any military help. Berlin is sticking by its previous statements, but Paris is giving itself room to maneuver and is open to negotiation. There’s no difference in substance here; but the differences in tactics show that the Germans and the French don’t have the same interests in Iraq."

According to the editors of Cologne’s Stadt-Anzeiger, "Gerhard Schroeder and Jacques Chirac are taking a clear political stand. They are calling for an ‘Iraqisation’ of the government in Baghdad, to get rid of the impression that Iraq is being occupied. Neither the French or the Germans are pushing to participate. But the real question is: how long can they hold out?"