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Europe

Press Review: The World's Ruling Couple

European editorials on Wednesday commented on Condoleeza Rice becoming the new US secretary of state while others condemned the apparent killing of British aid worker Margaret Hassan by Iraqi rebels.

Condoleezza Rice and George W. Bush are the world’s ruling couple, remarked Italy’s La Stampa – a pair which defines the dynamics of postmodernism. Their political relationship isn’t like one between kings and queens, political marriages or even like normal lovers, the paper said. But they are a couple nonetheless, it added. Rice is probably the closest person to the president, they trust one another and the paper pointed out that she’s the only one who can influence him without scaring or irritating him.

Der Bund in Bern also said it’s a plus that Bush always gives 'Condi' his ear. But the Swiss paper didn’t think Bush chose Rice to replace Powell only because the president feels comfortable with her and can count on her loyalty. The daily added it’s also because he now has backing from a majority of Americans to continue with his hard-line policies regarding foreign policy. It predicted that the tone towards the remaining rogue states Iran and North Korea is sure to get sharper. The paper did note, however, that Rice has remained a realist and knows that a democratic Middle East can’t happen without peace between Israel and the Palestinians.

Berlin’s Der Tagesspiegel looked at the historical aspect of Rice’s new job. Two black people in a row will hold the position of secretary of state, one of them a woman. The paper claimed this shows an unexpected tolerance and openness about President Bush, but it questioned whether this will bring Europe closer. The paper considered Powell pro-European and recalled that his predecessor, Madeleine Albright was born there but fled to America with her family to avoid Nazi persecution. Even though the paper felt Rice has a different agenda, people should at least respect her and hope that maybe she’ll live up to the expectation that her biography evokes, it concluded.

Other European editorial writers condemned the apparent killing of British aid worker Margaret Hassan by her Iraqi captors. Hassan was director of Care International's Iraq operations and had lived in Iraq for 30 years and had converted to Islam. She was taken captive nearly a month ago in Baghdad.

Britain’s The Independent said just when people thought the tragedy of post-war Iraq could hardly be more shocking, along comes news that Margaret Hassan has apparently been murdered. The paper asserted that as a woman who devoted her adult life to helping Iraqis, she deserved to enjoy the benefits that a free Iraq would have offered. The daily angrily wrote that it defies belief that human beings can think such a cold-blooded slaying can serve their cause, adding that it will only harden attitudes further.

The French daily La Republique de Centre assessed that her execution shows that rebels are reacting with barbarity to the US-led attacks and martial law. It said no one knows what kind of insane imagination made these kidnappers decide to kill Hassan as a sacrifice - a woman who spent nearly three decades trying to ease the suffering of Iraqis. Her killing also caused the paper to worry about the fate of two French journalists who’ve been held hostage for three months.