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Europe

Washington gives Paris the Cold-shoulder

Europe's editorial pages on Thursday focus on Franco-American relations, the prospects for Middle East Peace and the SARS epidemic.

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Catholic French daily La Croix comments on the cool U.S. reaction to the French proposal for immediate suspension of sanctions against Iraq. The paper predicts that France’s anti-war-position could have serious consequences for the country – saying it has already been clear for weeks that several members of the Bush administration are still angry with the French. What is now new is that the dovish U.S. secretary of State, Colin Powell, has joined the chorus of those wanting to take revenge. France is paying the price for its firm position as the "vangard in defending international law," writes the paper.

British daily the Financial Times also sees the United States trying to punish France, but shows some understanding for the hard line taken by Powell: "Having persuaded the unilateralist hawks in the Bush administration to give multilateral diplomacy a try, he felt undermined by

French blocking tactics in the security council," the paper says.

The Russian daily Isvestiya sees the French proposal for suspending the sanctions as a clear surrender by Paris. "The French are waving the flag of peace towards the Americans while at the same time forgetting about the troika of war opponents with Germany and Russia," the paper says.

The resolution of the Palestinian cabinet deadlock attracted the attention of Spanish daily El Pais. The agreement has opened a door to peace in the Middle East as Yasser Arafat has been pushed aside, the paper writes. But it is careful to point out that there are many other decisive factors in the

search for peace: Israel’s strategy of targeted killings and demolition of houses, the increasing influence of the United States and Palestinian terror make the current situation especially difficult, warns the Madrid paper.

The agreement is also a success for international pressure, says the German daily Hannoversche Allgemeine Zeitung. "Yasser Arafat could turn wherever he wanted, even to Moscow – everyone advised him to give in," writes the paper, suggesting that the agreement not only gives rise to fresh hopes for peace in the Middle East, but also to hopes for better transatlantic relations.

The Italian daily La Stampa comments on the consequences of the SARS epidemic. It predicts that if the disease keeps on spreading, economic growth in China – and to a smaller extent also in the South Asian "Tiger" states -- will slow down noticeably.