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Last Updated: Friday, 8 September 2006, 05:30 GMT 06:30 UK
European Press Review
European press

Papers differ in their verdicts on British Prime Minister Tony Blair's response to calls for his resignation. US President George W. Bush is criticised for defending the CIA's treatment of terrorism suspects abroad.

Pressure on Blair

"Blair's undignified end," reads the headline in Germany's Sueddeutsche Zeitung.

The daily says the British prime minister is damaging his party and government by "clinging on to office".

"His concern is with himself, and this is giving rise to a situation which is not just unworthy of him but is discrediting the British government."

It feels that he is already a "lame duck", a "figure of ridicule, even contempt" and that "voters are following the undignified spectacle with growing disgust," it warns.

France's Liberation says it would be too simplistic to view the "creeping putsch" pushing Tony Blair out of office as a symbol of the failure of Blairism.

It thinks that the debate is "less about Mr Blair's social-liberal ideology than about his style of government," particularly "the constant spin".

It adds that many also criticise his support for the "worst excesses of the Bush administration, from the Iraqi lie to support for Israel's strategy in Lebanon".

"These blemishes," it thinks, "mar the record of Blairism, originally a daring attempt to modernise European socialism, beginning with the seriously antiquated British Labour movement".

The controversy surrounding the handover to his natural successor, Gordon Brown, is very damaging to New Labour
Le Temps
But the paper adds that New Labour's failures should not obscure the successes which won it three successive election victories.

Austria's Die Presse comes to the prime minister's defence.

The fact that Tony Blair is still refusing to name a resignation date is a sign of "strength and consistency", it says, adding that the question of whether there will be an orderly handover of power also depends on Chancellor Gordon Brown and his supporters.

"Politics is cruel," is the verdict of Switzerland's Le Temps.

"The controversy surrounding the handover to his natural successor, Gordon Brown, is very damaging to New Labour," it says, warning that it threatens to develop into a "civil war between Blairites and Brownites".

The paper speculates that a further announcement may take place at the Labour Party's annual conference this month, "allowing Blair to leave with dignity as early as this autumn," which would be "by far the best option".

Bush

France's Le Monde says the US president's admission that the CIA has held terrorism suspects in secret prisons abroad is welcome, as is the transfer of 14 detainees to Guantanamo Bay.

It adds that a new policy statement which recognises that the Geneva Conventions apply to all military detainees "also marks a climb-down of the Bush Administration".

But, according to the paper, the "essential point" is that Mr Bush defended the CIA's "special programme" and that he wants Congress to legislate so that Guantanamo prisoners can be tried by special tribunals.

"A battle for the law has been won, but this war is not over," it concludes.

Slovakia's Pravda dismisses the transfer of 14 prisoners to Guantanamo and the new rules governing the interrogation of prisoners as "empty gestures".

Germany's Frankfurter Rundschau believes it is "remarkable that Bush wants to continue to run torture chambers".

"His claim that the relevant passages in the Geneva Conventions, which are binding under international law, are 'vague and undefined' is as absurd as it is scandalous," the paper says.

Although the US president obstinately avoided the word 'jails' in his speech, his statements show the CIA has such facilities
Cotidianul
Germany's Die Welt says the US president faces the prospect of legal action under a 1996 war crimes law.

"America's rule of law has ensured that al-Qaeda has been put in the dock," the paper says, but now "it may ensure that its worst enemy, George W Bush, will find himself there too".

Romania's Cotidianul says that "although the US president obstinately avoided the word 'jails' in his speech, his statements show that the CIA has such facilities, without indicating their location on the globe," the paper says.

Fellow Romanian paper Gardianul says although Romania has denied that it has hosted such detention centres, "Bush's statements could force officials in Bucharest to admit the opposite".

Kampusch

Austria's Der Standard is in two minds over whether Natascha Kampusch was well-advised to grant interviews about her eight-year kidnap ordeal to several media.

On the one hand, the interviews enabled her to tell her story herself, the paper observes, but was the media package not an intolerable "reality show of suffering"?

It notes that the television interviewer was "sensitive, well-informed and cautious", but the print media were "less successful in this regard".

"But even in the latter nothing could disturb Natascha Kampusch's moving words," the paper says. "She set the standards of her appearances."

Spain's El Pais pays tribute to the strength of character displayed by Natascha Kampusch in the face of her ordeal, which makes her "a heroine".

The paper highlights the central role of the media in her story even before she managed to escape.

Her "speech, perfect diction and communications skills" are thought to be due to her access to papers, radio and television, it observes, and now the media have turned her case into "a bestseller and her picture into an icon".

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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