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Saddam on the Beach

Europe’s leading newspapers are waiting for the U.S. to clarify its foreign policy now that the war in Iraq has come to an end. At the same time, they argue, "naughty Europe" should take its future in its own hands.


The European press, parsed and pared.

After Iraq, the Financial Times of London says, U.S. priorities are "as hazy as ever." The paper criticizes the apparent disarray in U.S. foreign policy, including postwar Iraq leadership, the Middle East peace process and North Korea. "With Iraq out of the way," it comments, "the world expected as a minimum some clearer signals about U.S. plans for the world. Now it seems Iraq was one rare moment of clarity in a continuing mess of opacity."

The French paper Le Figaro says it’s time to improve France’s military capability, calling it a prerequisite for credible, independent diplomacy. The paper adds: "Who knows, perhaps we may one day make this capacity available to our allies, for something -- like Afghanistan -- that we think is justified."

The Czech paper Pravo considers the possibility that U.S. troops could be moved from Germany to the Czech Republic. "Such a move could be interpreted as Washington punishing ‘naughty’ Europe," the paper says, "but that wouldn’t be in our interest. The question remains why a country like the U.S., with 290 million people, should maintain a presence in Europe, with its 500 million people." Europe should take its destiny in its own hands," says Pravo, "since transatlantic relations based on equality would be much better for all."

The Russian paper Izvestiya comments on the billions of dollars that disappeared from Iraq’s National Bank shortly before the fall of Saddam Hussein’s regime and wonders: "What are Saddam and his sons doing with all the money? You can just about imagine Saddam lying on a nice beach somewhere," the paper writes, "but his power-hungry sons wouldn’t be happy with such a boring future. They are more likely forming a terrorist organization like al Qaeda with the goal of regaining power and getting back at the Americans."

Switzerland’s Tages-Anzeiger comments on the efforts by the trade unions to block reforms in several European countries. "The proposed reforms from the governments in Vienna, Paris and Berlin don’t go far enough toward putting the social state on solid ground," the Zurich paper comments. "Coming generations will still have to reckon with higher deductions from their pay packets." But the paper says the unions are being overly stubborn in their efforts to block reforms, and it hopes that they’ll emerge as the clear losers in their struggle for power.

The Berliner Kurier examines the outcome of a meeting between German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder and the head of the German Trade Union Federation, Michael Sommer, aimed at overcoming differences. The meeting had to fail, the paper writes, "because neither was ready to compromise." The Kurier puts the blame on the unions, which, it says, are not offering alternatives. They only have one answer, the paper contends, "and that is ‘no.’"