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Friday, 21 September, 2001, 06:05 GMT 07:05 UK
European press review

As the US military turns its attention to Afghanistan, the Russian papers voice qualified support for the anti-terrorism effort but highlight the risks for regional security.

Other papers consider the roles of European countries in the war against Osama Bin Laden's organisation - and anti-Americanism is taken to task.

Russian concerns

"Moscow faces a tough choice", says the Russian Komsomolskaya Pravda as the United States gears up for retribution for last week's carnage in New York and Washington.

"As a state constantly calling for a worldwide battle against terrorism," it says, "Russia must support America in its military operation." However the paper warns that any direct military involvement could pose a serious threat to Russia itself.

"The whole world is in the grip of anti-Islamic hysteria and Russia has many Muslims," it points out.

Izvestiya, for its part, dismisses the decision by the council of Afghan clerics that the wanted Islamist extremist, Osama Bin Laden, be asked to leave the country voluntarily.

"The Taleban have no intention intend to give up Bin Laden," the paper says. "They are using delaying tactics and demagogy".

The paper thinks it very unlikely that the world will wait until it is told that the "Saudi guest" has left Afghanistan. "Who can verify this and how?" it asks.

The defence ministry newspaper Krasnaya Zvezda, obviously writing from experience, warns that classic military tactics will not work against the Taleban.

"What is needed is ground forces, which means that a long war beckons, with thousands of dead on both sides," the paper says. "Maybe that is what the terrorists were trying to achieve," it wonders.

Iran's position is even worse than Russia's, says Nezavisimaya Gazeta.

"The American operation against Afghanistan," the paper says, "means that Tehran is now forced to choose between two of its enemies, the United States and the Taleban".

And whatever its choice, it adds, Iran "could be threatened by an abrupt escalation of its own internal conflicts and even with a national uprising".

As the paper sees it, the tragedy in the United States has "acted as a catalyst to the difficult internal political processes developing in Iran since reformers came to power".

The country's conservative religious leaders, it points out, "are well aware that any rapprochement with the United States could make the reformers much stronger".

And if Iran thinks it's got problems, it need only look at Pakistan, whose leader, General Pervez Musharraf, having sided with the American-led coalition, is even more at risk, according to Novyye Izvestiya,

"If he declared the war to be wrong, most Pakistanis would be bound to support him," the paper says, but "that would compromise the future of the country and isolate it from modern civilization for a long time to come".

"Musharraf must be afraid now because he is at great risk," the paper says, "but he must find consolation in the thought that he has made the right choice."

Clerical ruling

Germany's Berliner Zeitung says the Afghan clerics who ruled that America's prime suspect Osama Bin Laden should be asked to leave voluntarily to a destination of his choice, have no notion of the implications of their decision.

"Their intellectual horizons reach no further than the mountain slopes surrounding their tribal lands," the paper says.

The United States is unlikely to regret the Taleban's decision, the paper believes.

"The security measures that would be required to put Bin Laden on trial have yet to be devised," it says.

The Frankfurter Rundschau welcomes the European Union's response in the week that followed the terror attacks in the United States.

It believes that says Europe's determination to influence the course of events has helped strengthen the "prudent" forces in Washington who want to build an international coalition against terrorism.

"This is the first victory over a kind of terrorism that wants to drive free societies into a cycle of self-destruction by destabilizing them," the paper says.

However it warns that the European position could be weakened by what it sees as "the tendency of France and Britain, in particular, to pursue their own foreign policies".

War, but not as we know it

Still in Germany, a commentator in the German Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung ponders the semantics of the coming confrontation.

"One cannot help noticing that the use or avoidance of the word 'war' in the West is like a dance of the seven veils where political nuances are displayed," the paper says.

"The strict definition of war... has become so frayed in everyday political language that it is now almost arbitrary," it adds. "If we can declare war on drug barons or the mafia... the term can certainly be used for terrorists as well."

But the paper believes American Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld "got to the heart of the matter" when he spoke of the challenges ahead as "a conflict or a battle or a crusade or a war or an effort where only one thing is certain: That it is of a completely new nature".

We know about terrorism, says Spain

With Washington preparing a military build-up in and around the Middle East, Spain on Thursday agreed to its request for use of military bases in the country.

The southern bases of Rota and Moron, notes Madrid's El Pais, "will play an important role in the transport and provisioning of American troops".

"After years of enduring the attacks of ETA and other groups," it says, Spain is well aware of the "scourge of terrorism" and "has for years been seeking the widest possible international cooperation to combat it".

The paper believes that the country's intelligence services - which it says are currently headed by a specialist in the Arab and Muslim worlds - will be bound to be of assistance to the international coalition.

"In this espionage war Spain has much to contribute and also a lot to gain," it points out.

Some like it not

The expressions of anti-Americanism heard from certain parts of the world - and in some quarters in the West - prompt a columnist in the French Le Nouvel Observateur to conclude, that, as he puts it, "there are forces at work... bent on provoking the kind of clash of civilizations that we (in the West) want to avoid".

"It looks as though we are in the process of regressing to the most hateful forms of tribal fanaticism," he says. At least "Marxism taught us to hate systems, not people".

The writer takes to task those he calls "disillusioned intellectuals", who "automatically blame" the United States for "all the world's ills".

"To blame all the poverty in the world on America's opulence smacks more of suspect moralising than of economic analysis," he concludes.

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

Links to more Europe stories are at the foot of the page.


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