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Last Updated: Tuesday, 20 July, 2004, 05:35 GMT 06:35 UK
European press review

In Tuesday's European press, a leading French daily sees a hidden agenda in Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's appeal to French Jews to move to Israel to escape the threat posed by anti-Semitism.

German papers reflect on the 60th anniversary of a failed plot by army officers to assassinate Adolf Hitler.

And army officers are also in the news in Russia, where the papers are keen to interpret President Putin's decision to sack some of the country's top brass.

Sharon 'not welcome'

"What," asks France's Le Monde, "is Ariel Sharon trying to obtain?"

The Israeli prime minister, the paper reminds its readers, has been told by President Jacques Chirac that he is no longer welcome in France, after he urged Jews living there to emigrate to Israel in order to escape anti-Semitism.

The image has been set, in the United States as in Israel, of an anti-Semitic country at the heart of Europe
Le Monde

Yes, the paper concedes, France "was slow to recognise the gravity of the problem of increasing anti-Semitic acts".

"But it has taken measures to combat this scourge, measures which Mr Sharon himself acknowledges," the paper argues.

Despite this, the Israeli prime minister's remarks will be difficult for the French to dismiss.

"The image has been set, in the United States as in Israel, of an anti-Semitic country at the heart of Europe."

What really lies behind Mr Sharon's comments, the paper maintains, is his desire to exclude Europe from the Middle East peace process.

In Israel's eyes, France is "at the forefront of Europe's pro-Arab policy".

And what Mr Sharon is hoping for, it concludes, is a Europe "stained by its pro-Arab position, and relegated to the role of banker".

Hitler plot remembered

Sixty years on from an unsuccessful attempt by German army officers to kill Adolf Hitler, the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung observes that public perceptions of the plot have changed sharply in the intervening years.

In the early 1950s, the paper says, most Germans took a dim view of the failed coup. Now, almost 75% of Germans recognise its symbolic significance.

"However, this positive image of the 'officers' revolt'... does not correspond to that held in neighbouring European countries, where interest is at best focused on Hitler," the paper ventures.

The Germans have always had a difficult relationship with liberation movements during their history
Sueddeutsche Zeitung

In countries occupied by the Nazis, it argues, officers who helped those persecuted on racial and political grounds are more likely to be commemorated than the 20 July plotters.

Even so, it says, both groups deserve "the gratitude and recognition of their contemporaries as well as of later generations".

The Sueddeutsche Zeitung notes that it took a long time for other members of the German resistance to receive public recognition.

"The Germans have always had a difficult relationship with liberation movements during their history, partly because the 20 July plot failed and freedom had to be fought for from outside," it says.

And while the plotters may have harboured illusions about Germany's greatness, the paper says they should be understood as a product of their time.

"Their historical contribution is that they demonstrated that individuals are responsible for their actions, in a system which had made irresponsibility the guiding principle."

Fallen generals

President Vladimir Putin's decision to sack some of Russia's most senior army officers on Monday was widely expected, and the Moscow daily Izvestia offers a very simple explanation for the move.

"This reshuffle," the paper says, "falls into the general scheme of army reform."

In short, it adds, the army "needed to be led by other people".

Both the troops and the public received the news with the sort of approval rarely seen in such circumstances

Two other papers, however, are convinced that the dismissals are linked to a series of rebel raids a month ago in the southern republic of Ingushetia, in which at least 80 people were killed.

"This," insists Gazeta, "is payback for their inaction during the bloody events in Ingushetia."

"This string of high-profile dismissals is the result of the unsatisfactory situation in the Caucasus," says Rossiyskaya Gazeta, "where the last straw was the rebel attack on Ingushetia."

"The president has removed all the generals responsible for the situation throughout the Caucasus."

But Nezavisimaya Gazeta thinks that the officer cull, which claimed army chief of staff Gen Anatoly Kvashnin among others, had been in the pipeline for some time.

"It is obvious," it asserts, "that the mistakes in the Caucasus were only a pretext, the last straw but not the main reason for Kvashnin's dismissal."

Whatever the reasons may be, Trud thinks the sackings will do President Putin's ratings no harm at all.

"Both the troops and the public received the news with the sort of approval rarely seen in such circumstances," it remarks.

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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