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Friday, 25 May, 2001, 06:39 GMT 07:39 UK
European press review

The seven shots to the back that felled a Basque newspaper executive on Thursday morning bring tones of defiance and resolve to Spanish front pages and editorials.

Elsewhere, steering problems are predicted for President George W Bush after a member of his crew jumped ship.

Shooting the messenger

The shooting of Santiago Oleaga Elejabarrieta, financial director of the San Sebastian daily El Diario Vasco is seen by the Spanish papers as a sign that the armed Basque separatist group ETA has decided to target the press.

"The gun has never managed to silence people's resolve to think and express themselves freely," says Madrid's El Mundo. "Ideas are much stronger than bullets, and so ETA will fail in its vain attempt to kill the messenger."

Barcelona's La Vanguardia, whose front page headline reads, "ETA shoots at the freedom of the press", quotes Basque regional Premier Juan Jose Ibarretxe as saying that ETA "is trying to recover through murder what it lost at the ballot box" on the 13 May regional elections.

El Pais, for its part says that "the time has come for a basic consensus to be reached among democrats to fight terrorist violence with all the means at the disposal of a law-based state".

And El Diario Vasco, the slain executive's newspaper, pledges that "Our commitment to this land and to confronting death with life-affirming truth is now stronger than ever".

For want of a senator, the Senate was lost...

Berlin's Die Welt says the defection of Senator James Jeffords from the Republican camp may be a serious blow for President George W Bush but not necessarily for the United States.

President Bush "will no longer find it possible to maintain an overly hard line, be it in environmental or social policy", the paper says. This is not necessarily a bad thing, it points out, since the country did well under the Democrat Bill Clinton, and he had to live with a Republican-dominated Senate.

Vienna's Die Presse agrees.

"To date Mr Bush has served the ultra-conservatives in his party; from now on this will no longer be possible," it says.

"Mr Jeffords said he was a Republican moderate who found he no longer belonged in his party, which under Mr Bush is dominated by the right as at no time in its recent history," says London's The Independent.

"When he was governor of Texas, Mr Bush showed he could forge consensus and compromise in unpromising circumstances," the paper notes. "It is time for him to do the same in Washington."

"Jeffords's defection is a big slap in the face for George W. Bush," says the French Liberation. "Up to now, everything, or almost everything, was going well for him... but as from today the American political landscape has changed."

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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