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Thursday, 20 September, 2001, 02:16 GMT 03:16 UK
European press review

There is continuing advice to the United States in today's papers not to strike out blindly or hastily in its desire for revenge and justice for the horrors visited upon its people on Tuesday 11 September.

Pakistan's precarious position and the delicate balance of the Middle East cease-fire are also topics of concern.

And is the Texan George W Bush - in true Western tradition - shooting from the hip, or rather the lip?

Counselling a wounded giant

As a frightened Afghani population brace themselves for - or attempt to flee - the impending wrath of the wounded giant, Vienna's Der Standard says that what they urgently need is help.

It points out that for decades they have has known nothing but "suffering, death, oppression, destruction, drought, hunger, poverty".

"If America's and the West's assurances that war will be waged only on terrorists and not on the innocent population are true," the paper says, "then an immediate and comprehensive aid programme is necessary."

The cost, it points out, would be a mere fraction of what President Bush has earmarked for the fight against terrorism. And the move would also be tactically sound, because, as the paper puts it, "the defeat of the Soviet Union, a former superpower, in Afghanistan shows that a war against the people cannot be won".

A commentary in the Portuguese Expresso finds it understandable that America's allies should wish to have a say on a war against terrorism which, as the paper sees it, "must have everyone's full commitment if it is to have any chance of success".

But having a say, it adds, does not mean "drawing up a long list of 'buts', sitting quietly in the corner, and hoping the United States takes it upon itself to do what must be done".

A middle line must be taken, the paper says, between "unconditional obedience" to Washington, and what it calls "the traditional European obsession with being on good terms with God and the Devil at the same time".

The French Le Nouvel Observateur warns against any act of revenge which, as the paper puts it, "would lower the civilized world to the level of the barbarians attacking it". Committing "a new massacre of the innocent with the pretext of avenging a previous one", the paper says, "would not so much avenge it as justify it".

What is needed is "a huge, worldwide police operation in which every country would participate with the appropriate means", it points out.

"The real problem of the world today," the paper adds, "is not American imperialism, it's the uselessness of American diplomacy, the schizoid marriage of an idealism for internal consumption with the cynicism of its foreign policy."

"If America wants to stop being hated in all the world's continents," it urges, "it must apply to its foreign policy the principles ruling its domestic affairs."

The weakest link

London's Independent says that the urgent priority for American diplomacy remains "the need to tie Pakistan fast into the alliance and to support the initiatives the Pakistani government has been taking with the Taleban".

"Whether President Bush likes it or not," it adds, "the government and, indirectly, the people, of Pakistan have an effective veto over the deployment of American forces in the area."

The paper sees the televised address to the nation by Pakistan's leader, General Musharraf, as showing that he has been "as supportive" of the United States "as he can be, given the fractures within his own country".

"But Pakistan may yet prove to be both the most important and yet the weakest link in the grand coalition against terrorism," Independent concludes.

Will the truce hold?

The Swiss Le Temps says there is scepticism among Palestinian activists over whether the cease-fire called on Tuesday by their leader Yasser Arafat will hold, while the ordinary people hope that it will.

"Not only the Islamist movements," the paper says, "but even the members of Fatah", Mr Arafat's group within the Palestine Liberation Organization, "expect the truce to fail".

However, it adds, "many Palestinians perceive the success of the cease-fire as a question of survival", because an attack now against civilians inside Israel would "unleash the wrath" of the Israeli authorities "and no other country would attempt to stop them".

The problem, the paper points out, is that the popularity of the armed group Hamas is "growing with every passing day", and so "the temptation to do their worst cannot be ruled out".

Tuesday's moves away from confrontation prompt the Vatican's ever-hopeful L'Osservatore Romano to say that "the cloud of dust that darkened the streets of Manhattan and the conscience of humanity" has been "pierced by the ray of light of a hope for peace" in the Middle East.

"The entire international community," the paper adds, "awaits the resumption of a peace process of such huge importance" to the rest of the world.

"Against the cowardice of those who use violence to avoid listening to the reasons of others," it says, "there is a need today for the courage and strength to see that the word prevails over the gun,"

The French Le Monde notes that Yasser Arafat has not repeated what the paper calls "his mistake of 10 years ago when he declared his solidarity with Saddam Hussein".

"This time," the paper says, "he has denounced Bin Laden and has sided with the United States."

On the other hand, it adds, "Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon did his utmost to take advantage of the situation" in the wake of the terror attacks in America.

In so doing, the paper points out, "Mr Sharon has behaved with short-sighted opportunism", in contrast with what the paper sees as the "statesmanship" displayed by Prime Minister Itzhak Shamir during the Gulf crisis.

George W Bush, unscripted

Munich's Sueddeutsche Zeitung is less than impressed with the way the president of the United States expresses himself.

Mr Bush was already not famed for his verbal skills, the paper notes, but now what it calls his "clumsiness" is becoming a problem.

It takes particular exception to his wanting Osama Bin Laden "dead or alive", and argues that in calling for "a crusade" he failed to consider how the Arab world would respond to the term.

"In times of crisis," the paper says, "the power of words can be one of the most powerful weapons in a democracy." The president of the United States, it adds, has "a chance to form an alliance the like of which the world had never seen". But "he is in danger of squandering it" with his words.

"Are these the words of a White House image-maker, or is this the real President George W Bush?" asks the Paris-based International Herald Tribune.

It quotes White House officials as saying that what the paper calls "the gunslinger rhetoric" had all "come straight from the mind and mouth of the president" because "there has been little time during the crisis to script an intensely scripted president".

But the officials also acknowledged, the paper adds, that "the president has grown more comfortable in straying away from prepared remarks and speaking from the gut".

Too broad a brush

The Slovak Hospodarske Noviny, in a commentary headlined "Evil has no nationality, no birth certificate and no passport", criticizes attacks on Muslims in the United States and Europe.

"All Arabs, all Muslims are being blamed," the paper says, "not just a few psychopathic and fanatical terrorists. The outraged West has opted for revenge but, unfortunately, it is applying the lamentable principle of collective guilt."

Just like the bad old days

The Budapest daily Nepszabadsag reports that Hungary's far-right Justice and Life Party has complained against what it says is a drive to impose "wartime censorship" in advance of military action by the United States.

The complaint followed a draft resolution from the government "to condemn any statements which, instead of deploring the terrorist attacks against the United States, seek to make excuses for the barbaric attacks", the paper explains.

It adds that Justice and Life likened this state of affairs to the communist era when no criticism of the Soviet Union was allowed and "Stalin could only be praised".

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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