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German Press Review: The Implications of Saddam's Sons' Deaths

German editorials on Thursday looked at the killings of Saddam Hussein's sons in a gun battle with U.S. troops in Iraq, and discussed the controversy surrounding a planned exhibition about the German guerrilla group RAF.

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Uday and Qusay Hussein were among the most-wanted members of Iraq's government.

Die Welt in Berlin said the killing of Saddam Hussein's two sons, Uday and Qusay, was the success the Americans had so urgently needed and had been yearning for. It marked a turning point in post-war Iraq. It was psychologically important for the Americans and had huge symbolism for the Iraqis, the paper said.

Saddam's clan had been able to retain its aura of brutality and power in spite of all the military victories scored by the allies. This was evident by the fear in the population that Saddam could one day return and punish those who helped the Americans. But now with the demise of the two sons, that fear would be less intense, Die Welt said. The Americans had finally and conclusively proven that the old guard could not hide from them.

The Frankfurter Rundschau was more sceptical in its stance. Had there really been a fundamental change to the political situation in Iraq? The occupying authorities seemed to think so, the paper said. They put continuing resistance down to attacks launched under direct or indirect command of the old regime, or down to the "Sunni triangle" of Saddam loyalists, which they believed to be a temporary phenomenon.

This, the daily said, was only part of the story. The opposition was more deep-rooted than that and was growing anew everyday, fostered by the failure to provide the population with water, electricity and jobs. The attacks on the occupying troops and those who worked for them in positions of trust were apparently being carried out by those who were more likely to fear the return of Saddam Hussein than to profit from it. If the fear that Saddam and his sons were going to return subsided, then so, too, did any inhibitions about resisting the occupying forces.

The Rhein Zeitung said many Iraqis would be breathing a sigh of relief at the death of the two sons. But the danger had not passed. Saddam Hussein would continue to inhabit the nightmares of Iraqis for as long as he was able to tape record seditious messages.

The Süddeutsche Zeitung commented on a planned exhibition in Berlin about the Red Army Faction, or RAF. The German guerrilla group was responsible for bombings and assassinations in the 1970s and 1980s. The RAF, for example, killed the employers' association leader Hans Martin Schleyer in 1977 and the director of the agency set up to privatize East Germany, Detlev Rohwedder, in 1991.

Now, the city of Berlin has earmarked €100,000 for an exhibition to be staged in 2004 about the RAF's history. However, after objections from victims' families, Chancellor Schröder has called for a review of the event to assess whether it should receive state funding. Süddeutsche Zeitung said accounts of the RAF had already been given a personal touch in various books and films, but they lacked analysis and reflection. Nobody today seemed to care about the laws that were passed back then in a bid to defeat the RAF, it said. And nobody seemed to worry why the authorities hadn't cleared up a single crime committed by the RAF since 1985. Years of public panic had been replaced by a curious sort of detached weariness, the daily wrote.