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Europe

Why Are Bush and Blix Trading Places?

Europe's editorialists say Bush should let U.N. weapons inspectors finish the job they began and warn that newfound religious freedom in Iraq could, ironically, foment unrest among Iraq's many religious groups.

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The search for weapons of mass destruction in Iraq dominates the editorial page of the British daily the Financial Times. It sees "a certain unease developing in U.S. and U.K. government circles about their failure to uncover the weapons of mass destruction they so insistently charged the Saddam Hussein regime with possessing before the war." The paper adds that it is ironic that the US should now be asking for more time to find Iraq’s weapon arsenals, when it was earlier so impatient about the efforts of U.N. Chief Weapons Inspector Hans Blix to do the same. The obvious solution would be to send the U.N. team of inspectors back to Iraq to complete the task it started, the paper suggests.

The pilgrimage of one million Iraqi Shiites to the town of Kerbala attracts the attention of the Spanish daily El Mundo, which writes that this demonstrates how difficult it could be for the US to secure peace in Iraq -- a country deeply divided into different religious and ethnic groups. The paper assumes that "the Iraqi Shiites are tempted to force the Iranian model of an Islamic-fundamentalist state on their country as well." And this could fuel the secessionist tendencies of the country's Kurdish minority, the paper says.

Other European papers look at the start of the three-day talks between North Korea and the US in Beijing. The conservative Czech paper Lidove Noviny views the meeting as a hopeful sign. "Solely the fact that China is the host of these talks is a sensation," the paper's editors write. Instead of just talking about a "peaceful solution" like it did before, Beijing is now playing an active role in the negotiations. Still it would be exaggerated to hope, that the US and China want join forces to topple the regime in North Korea, the Prague-based paper concludes.

Russian daily Nesawissimaja Gaseta, however, sees the Chinese role in the talks in a more critical light given that Russia hasn't been invited to the negotiations. "It increasingly looks like China wants to play its own game on the Korean peninsula -- against all international agreements," the Moscow paper writes.

Meanwhile, Germany's Süddeutsche Zeitung opines on the difficulties in setting up a new Palestinian government. It sees the struggle between Palestinian President Yassir Arafat and designated prime minister Mahmoud Abbas as an "expression of the political fight for survival of an incompetent leader who doesn’t want to leave the stage of international politics." With Abbas as the prime minister at his side, Arafat wouldn’t have too much to say anymore, the paper concludes. Besides, the paper says, the Palestinian Authority president has failed to understand that a new era has arrived.

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