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German Press Review: The Self-Destructing British Foreign Policy

Germany's editorials continued to focus on the Iraqi prisoner scandal on Tuesday. But the increasing woes of Finance Minister Hans Eichel and the "Sasser" virus also got top billing.

The Mitteldeutsche Zeitung in Halle criticized British Prime Minister Tony Blair's foreign policy as a "pile of shards." No weapons of mass destruction have been found in Iraq, the political and religious tensions in the country have been grossly underestimated and now comes the confession that British troops were involved in human rights violations in Iraq, the paper observed. Even if there is no evidence of political leaders condoning systematic torture, the paper maintained that responsibility should go right to the top and that a resignation by Britain's Defense Secretary Geoffrey Hoon might go a long way in restoring the country’s image abroad.

In Berlin, Die Welt acknowledged that Tony Blair has apologized for the wrongdoings of individual soldiers of the coalition forces against Iraqi prisoners. But by doing so, the paper said he once again presented himself "as an aide to the American administration." Although it seems the misconduct of the British troops falls short of that of their American counterparts in Abu Ghraib, the paper expressed worry over the lack of sensitivity in politicians on both sides of the Atlantic in dealing with this issue.

The Financial Times Deutschland lamented that the revelation of fresh evidence of human rights violations in Iraq is becoming a daily event. "These are not one-off incidents, but rather a systematic method of forcing information out of inmates," the paper commented. It quotes an accused military policewoman who is reported as saying that it was their duty as guards to make the lives of unmanageable prisoners "hell." The paper said the scandal will be an "expensive" one for America, at a time when international sympathy is running very low.

In another leading editorial, The Financial Times also commented on the plight of German Finance Minister Hans Eichel, who has come under fire as Germany's budget woes mount. The paper argued that the minister cannot claim to be "smoothing out the current business climate, when all he does is reveal more budget holes and consider new debts."

The "man of iron is turning rusty," chided the Leipziger Volkszeitung in reference to Hans Eichel’s nickname of a budget controller with an iron fist. "His path of budget consolidation seems to have turned into a labyrinth," the paper wrote.

Germany’s leading tabloid the Bild Zeitung took the criticism one step further by labeling Hans Eichel's finance scheme "a complete and utter failure." It claimed the government's plans to iron things out by 2006 and fulfill the requirements of the European Stability Pact, which sets a budget deficit limit of three percent, are nothing but "hollow words."

On a different topic, German prosecutors said Monday they were holding in custody a 21-year-old man suspected of having developed two computer worms, which infected computers in the United States and Britain last year. This comes just after the arrest of a German teenager on the weekend who admitted to creating the recent Sasser worm, which has infected millions of computers worldwide. The Stuttgarter Zeitung said these attacks have revealed "a flaw in recent versions of Microsoft's Windows operating systems and that it is therefore no more than an illusion to expect an absolutely secure Windows system from Microsoft." The paper criticized the founder of the operating system, saying "just as always, it appears that Bill Gates places more importance on user friendliness than on security."

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