European Press Review: The Moment of Truth for Tony Blair | Europe| News and current affairs from around the continent | DW | 26.01.2004
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European Press Review: The Moment of Truth for Tony Blair

European editorials on Monday looked at what’s being described as a make-or-break week for Britain’s Premier Tony Blair ahead of the release of a report regarding the suicide of weapons expert David Kelly.

The conservative Norwegian paper Aftenposten began its editorial by saying that the cracks in Tony Blair’s political career are beginning to show. One of the reasons may have been his unfailing loyalty towards U.S. President George W. Bush during the Iraq conflict. The ensuing debate over whether Saddam Hussein actually possessed weapons of mass destruction and Dr. David Kelly’s suicide in connection with the issue have eroded public confidence in Blair, the paper wrote. He also desperately needs internal support. Ironically, the paper said, the opposition Conservative Party’s new-found strength has given Blair the perfect argument to demand more backing from his Labor Party.

Germany’s Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung had an equally bleak outlook for the prime minister. The paper wrote that Blair’s conviction that Iraq posed a grave danger before the war due to its arsenal of weapons of mass destruction is becoming tenuous. That position has not been made any easier to uphold in light of the remarks made by U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell questioning the existence of such weapons, the paper concluded.

Both Britain’s Guardian and Independent newspapers insisted that the time has come for Mr. Blair to accept the truth. The Independent spelled it our by writing that his insistence that the intelligence on Saddam Hussein’s weapons of mass destruction was right is beginning to look detached from reality. However, the paper added, Mr. Blair cannot bring himself to say: I was wrong, even though failure to do so is having a detrimental effect on his authority.

The Guardian wrote that nearly 12 months on, the Iraq war continues to overshadow everything that Tony Blair does and says. His insistence that Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction proved a grave security threat is becoming less and less credible, the paper found. The prime minister, the paper added, has admitted that he believed the intelligence provided at the time, he’s also acknowledged that no weapons have been found. However, crucially, the paper wrote, the prime minister has failed to put two and two together and accept that the intelligence on the weapons might have been wrong or that there might have been more to the war. It’s a task he can’t afford to delay any longer, concluded the paper.

The French paper La Croix pointed out that a key weapon of mass destruction had been neglected for too long, namely the lie. However the latest revelations and admissions, wrote the paper, are gradually tearing at the fabric to reveal the truth of the matter. Those in power in Washington and London, concluded the paper, are still clinging to the belief that there is more to be revealed.

London’s Financial Times also took issue with secrecy and deception. However, here the focus was on the bird flu outbreak. For the second time in a year, the paper wrote, a government has covered up the outbreak of a lethal disease: first SARS, now avian flu. How many epidemics must there be before governments learn that such secrecy is dangerous and counterproductive, the paper asked. If the bird flu danger passes it will be no thanks to the Thai government, the paper concluded.