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Europe

German Press Review: Saddam, Iraq's First Big Test

German papers on Thursday comment on Saddam Hussein's first appearance in court, Germany's new president and planned adoption rights for gay couples.

The editors of Berlin's Tagesspiegel commented that the hearing against Saddam Hussein could result in something like the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in South Africa, whereby Iraqi society can deal with the crimes of the past. But, the paper warned, "that court case is also a test of whether the new Iraqi government can guarantee a just, fair trial."

"The handover of Saddam to Iraqi custody is an important step towards independence," maintained the Express tabloid from Cologne. Yet, it added, "if the court manages to try the murderers of the former regime in a fair and transparent way, then the trust of the Iraqi's in their judiciary will be strengthened." "And this will help the population identify with the new government and not reject it as a puppet of the west."

However, the Dresdner Neueste Nachrichten remained more skeptical, writing that "in the first few years after the fall of a brutal dictator, only an international court can provide an objective judgement." According to the paper, Iraq's judiciary is too inexperienced and has too much thirst for revenge. "The case will be televised, the interim Iraqi government wants to reinstate the death penalty – it's clear that this will be nothing more than a show trial," the paper wrote.

Commenting on Germany's new president, Horst Köhler, the Rhein-Zeitung from Koblenz wrote that he won't have it easy. "When the former chief of the International Monetary Fund takes over as the ninth head of state, he inherits a country in a state of upheaval," it wrote. The paper's editors opined that no other president has had to deal with such existential problems like the economic uncertainty facing Germany at the moment.

Trust is a key word in the comparison between the new and old president, mused the Stuttgarter Zeitung. Johannes Rau won it over a long period whereas Köhler is behaving differently from the start by vehemently and tirelessly alluding to Germany's economic problems, wrote the paper. However it warned, "Köhler could quickly get into trouble without first winning the trust of the population. If he does so, then he will make a worthy successor to Rau."

Bonn's General Anzeiger praised outgoing President Rau, adding that Germans have reason to thank the man who has served his people as a politician for a half-century. The paper described Rau as "highly intelligent" and "well read," yet it added, "he was also someone who could effortlessly switch from speaking at a philosophical conference to chatting with the person on the street because he never forgot that he was one of us."

The expansion of Germany's laws governing same-sex unions is a sign the government is moving with the times commented the Saarbrücker Zeitung. However, the papers editors wrote they believed it was still too early to judge whether allowing same-sex couples adoption rights will really benefit the child. "The eager, reform-minded government should give society more time to allow this acceptance to mature gradually," the paper concluded.

The Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung wrote that same-sex unions will step by step become more similar to the traditional institution of marriage. And, the paper noted, the conservative Christian Democratic Union has pledged not to change the law if there's a change in government – indication for the paper that the opposition is aware of the voter potential of a new mainstream.

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