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Friday, 30 November, 2001, 06:45 GMT
European press review

Today's papers suggest two different stress lines in the antiterror coalition - US President George W Bush's not-so-veiled threats to Iraq, and his plans to have suspected terrorists tried in secret by army officers.

The British prime minister is raised to Churchillian heights by a French weekly just as he welcomes Messrs Chirac and Jospin to his Downing Street abode.

And French deputies take stock of a day of infamy in Srebrenica six years ago.

Blair the war chief

The French weekly L'Express has a lengthy and admiring article on British Prime Minister Tony Blair and his international role since the 11 September attacks.

Mr Blair, the paper says "has emerged as the war leader and spokesman for a Europe which, but for him, would have been largely inaudible if not altogether mute".

"The facts speak for themselves," it adds. "Tony Blair alone in Europe has declared his country to be at war".

Within 90 minutes of the attack on the World Trade Center, "as George W Bush vanished for several hours after being whisked away to a secret base", Mr Blair "went on television and was the first leader to call for an international response".

"It's all as if the British leader believed, without ever admitting it, that this war is much too serious a business to be left to the Americans," the paper says.

Tony Blair, it adds, sees Britain as a bridge between the United States and Europe. But "unlike his predecessors, he is European by culture and by conviction". He "wants his country to join the euro", but also wants to show Europe "that London's 'special relationship' with Washington will ensure a continuing American presence so vital" to Europe's security.

The one "pitfall" Mr Blair must beware of, the paper warns, "is to overestimate his influence in Washington". All the evidence "points to Britain's advice being a factor among others in the White House's decision-making machinery, but perhaps not a determining one".

"His calls for restraint towards Iraq are being heeded for the moment," the paper notes, "but it remains to be seen for how long".

Will Iraq break the coalition?

According to the German Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung , Iraq is also very much on Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder's mind.

Having just won a political battle to contribute German troops to the antiterror coalition's efforts in Afghanistan, the paper says, Mr Schroeder "is now wrestling with the possibility that the conflict could expand and expose the country's forces to additional dangers".

He "is troubled in particular about the possibility that the United States would attack Iraq", it adds.

The chancellor's worries were fuelled by the veiled threat levelled at Iraq last Monday by President Bush when he demanding access for UN weapons inspectors into the country, the paper explains.

It notes that Mr Schroeder and British Prime Minister Tony Blair have "warned the United States that an attack on Iraq could crack Mr. Bush's international antiterror coalition".

"Germany itself would deploy troops to an Iraqi mission under one condition - that the Iraqi government approved of it," it says.

Revisiting Srebrenica

The French Le Monde publishes the main findings of a French parliamentary commission's 1,000-page report into the July 1995 massacre in Bosnia-Herzegovina's UN-protected Muslim enclave of Srebrenica.

The report blames France, Britain and the United States for showing "a lack of political will" as members of the UN Security Council to which the Unprofor peace-keepers were answerable, and accuses their French commander of what it calls "a manifest error of judgment" in refusing to call in air strikes to stop the Bosnian Serbs seizing the enclave.

"Srebrenica was also a French failure," the report says at one point.

"The report's conclusions treat France harshly," Le Monde says in an editorial. "They may be incomplete, too radical in some parts, too lenient in others, but they have the huge merit... of retracing the various levels of responsibility for a tragedy that will go down in history as a symbol of the West's passivity as hateful crimes are being committed on our doorstep."

Trying times

The Swiss Le Temps notes "growing unease" among America's allies since President Bush signed his order enabling special military courts to try foreign terrorist suspects behind closed doors.

"Even the Nazi leadership," the paper says, "enjoyed the right to due process in Nuremberg."

"Even a Slobodan Milosevic," it adds, "directly or indirectly responsible for countless massacres, Srebrenica included," has the right to "a lawyer of his choosing, access to his case file, and a public trial covered by the media".

The reason why "even the most abominable criminals" are entitled to due legal process, the paper says, is that "respect for the law" is democracy's "distinctive mark, its very essence".

Moreover, it is not just a question of punishing the criminal: "First and foremost, it is the crime itself that must be judged."

"This is why the al-Qaeda terrorists must be tried - and their guilt established - in broad daylight," it urges. "These murderers must not be turned into victims of a travesty of justice."

"Democracy has won," the paper points out. "It would lose if it betrayed itself."

Cold-shouldering the Dalai Lama

A columnist in the Portuguese Expresso makes no effort to conceal his contempt for the low profile maintained by the Lisbon authorities during the Dalai Lama's recent visit to Portugal at the invitation of a Catholic university.

It all started with a statement from the Chinese embassy that "any official contacts" with the Tibetans' spiritual leader would be seen as "an act of interference in China's internal affairs".

"The country felt indignation and shame", the paper says, at the authorities' "failure to react" to China's "unacceptable pressure and public blackmail".

They behaved, it adds, as though in fear of "displeasing or annoying the masters of Beijing and Macao".

The Dalai Lama's visit, it adds, "has served to highlight the political pusillanimity... and unprincipled opportunism of the Portuguese state's highest representatives".

The European press review is compiled by BBC Monitoring from internet editions of the main European newspapers and some early printed editions.

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