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German Press Review: The New Libya

German editorials Thursday looked at Libya’s offer to pay victims of a German nightclub bombing, thawing relations between Berlin and Tripoli as well as the US decision to extend the deadline for biometric passports.

Looking at Libya’s offer of compensation to German victims, the Ostthüringer Zeitung noted the moral added value resulting from finally resolving the painful history of the La Belle nightclub bombing should not be underestimated. Both Libya and Germany can make a new start, the paper wrote. German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder's agreement to visit Tripoli is both proof and the political reward of that. The time was ripe for the agreement since Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi has actually renounced international terrorism. Still, that’s only one side of the coin, the paper pointed out. The other side is that Libya has been an example of how boycotts can sometimes help when pursued diligently enough. The resource-rich nation was brought to its knees economically and politically backed into a corner, the paper said.

Schröder’s trip to Tripoli, announced for the fall, would be the perfect opportunity to show Libya that -- based on maxims defined by the West for new Near and Middle East policies -- purely expanding economic relations between Germany and Libya will not be enough, the Frankurter Allgemeine Zeitung assessed. Gadhafi will have to make a concerted effort to respect human rights if he wants to get more involved with the European Union, the paper commented. One such issue concerns the Bulgarian doctor and nurses who were sentenced to death in Libya for supposedly willfully dispersing HIV there. Schröder told Bulgaria he'd get on the case a few months ago, now he’ll have the chance to do something about it, the paper speculated.

It was Libya's demand for compensation for air strikes on its country in 1986 from the United States that got the Berliner Zeitung's attention. Libya has said Washington should pay the families of the 41 Libyans killed and 226 wounded during the air strikes. The paper agreed with Libya, calling its demand justified. The then US President Ronald Reagan ordered the air strikes as a response to the nightclub bombing, which killed two Americans and injured 160 others. But the nightclub attack did not justify the US decision to retaliate on its own. The air strikes were the United States' own brand of justice, and are just as much a crime as the nightclub bombing, the paper maintained.The Stuttgarter Nachrichten took to task US President Bush’s move to have biometric information placed in passports of visitors to the United States. The paper surmised that while President Bush is running the country, fear is also ruling the nation. Many privacy activists in Europe are finding what is now permitted in the United States rather fishy. Even face recognition measures are a legitimate means of fighting crime in America. Innocent people have to trust authorities that biometric data won’t be abused. Fighting terror demands a lot of trust from people with a spotless record, and infringes on their freedom, the paper concluded.

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