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German Press Review: Specter of Vietnam Haunts U.S.

Most German papers weren't published Friday due to the Good Friday holiday. Editorialists who did get printed weighed in on the unrest in Iraq, terrorism fears at the Vatican and Germany's unpopular central bank chief.

The Westfälische Nachrichten said the gruesome television pictures of the kidnap victims show that the violent militia led by Motada Sadr are capable of almost anything. America will therefore respond with all its military might. That is the only way to stop the unrest from spreading and to regain control of Iraq. It will also become more difficult for the United States to relinquish its unpopular role as an occupier, one of the preconditions for peace in Iraq. Washington faces a dilemma. A political solution to the conflict sponsored by the Americans looks less and less likely. The United Nations could throw a lifeline, but as Iraq is on the verge of civil war, it is likely to be quite out of reach.

The Lübecker Nachrichten said the specter of Vietnam is haunting America, the fear of involvement in a war that will paralyze a superpower and throw a whole region into turmoil. But the fear may be overstated, the paper wrote. The rebels in Iraq do not have a whole country, like North Vietnam did, behind them. But even a long, drawn-out war against Iraqi guerrillas would cost thousands of lives. It would also spur the recruitment of even more Islamic terrorists.

In the Vatican, Pope John Paul has started four hectic days of services in the run up to Easter. Last week Italian media reported that intelligence agencies had warned the pontiff might be the target of an attack during the Easter period. The Neue Westfälische had the following words of contemplation. Even if our vision of a perfect world has taken a few knocks, the paper said, we should not join in efforts to destroy it. We should grasp this period of upheaval as an opportunity to build a better world. This starts with the education of our children and passing on to them the knowledge that violence leads nowhere.

While there has been no shortage of major international news in the German papers this week, commentators have been using a lot of ink on a domestic story centering around Bundesbank President, Ernst Welteke. Welteke has coming under fire from all corners of the German political establishment for letting Germany's Dresdner Bank, pay a hotel bill for him totaling over €7,000. The German central bank said on Wednesday that Welteke would take a leave of absence, but it saw no grounds for his dismissal. The government called that decision inappropriate and urged Welteke to take the necessary consequences, an unmistakable call for his resignation.

The Mittelbayerische Zeitung underlines that the German government would not be sorry to see to Welteke depart. In the European Central Bank, he is hardly a major player. He has simply been unable to acquire the authority and aura that previous presidents of the Bundesbank possessed.

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