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Tuesday, 25 September, 2001, 04:24 GMT 05:24 UK
European press review
Several papers look at President George W Bush's decision to declare war on the funding of terrorism, and while some applaud the move, others warn that he may be acting too late.

A German paper warns that the postponing of the peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians threatens American policy in the region.

Meanwhile, a number of German-language papers worry about the low turnout for Sunday's elections in Poland.

US wakes up late

Switzerland's La Tribune de Geneve says, in an editorial on George W Bush's decision to freeze Osama Bin Laden's assets, that the "the awakening of the American authorities" to the problem "has really come very late".

"The American judicial and police authorities disposed of every legal possibility to begin the financial hunt for Bin Laden's assets long before the current tragedy," it adds.

It says that Bin Laden has already taken advantage of the slow response of the American authorities.

"He has had all the time needed to divide up his companies into a hazy network of front companies that it will be very difficult to identify," it says.

It adds that up until now the US has been careful not to take on the tax havens where, the paper adds, Bin Laden has evidently placed his assets.

The paper concludes that "Washington thus has no alternative", adding "it will have to break open the judicial locks that these havens use to hinder investigations".

Hitting where it hurts

Paris's Liberation, in an editorial headlined "Conversion", approves of President Bush's announced crackdown on terrorists' financial assets.

It says: "Nobody with any sense will blame the president of the USA for opening this new front."

The paper also adds that people will complain even less about the fact that the US' new stance puts several countries which for years have been, in the paper's view, "protecting dubious financial markets" in a difficult position.

But the paper warns: "The will to act shown by President Bush is not, however, a promise of quick results."

Le Figaro in Paris says: "The first American strike was aimed at the heart of terrorism: money."

"This decision shows that Washington has decided to act prudently by opting for a graduated and diversified reprisal."

Madrid's El Mundo leads with the headline "Russia allows the USA to use its air space to attack Afghanistan".

The paper also looks at President Bush's crackdown on the financial assets of terrorism and says that the Vatican has said that a "self-defence action" is justified, even if it causes deaths.

Staying with the papacy, the Vatican's L'Osservatore Romano provides comprehensive reporting of Pope John Paul II's visit to Kazakhstan, in Central Asia.

It leads with the following headline, which paraphrases the Pope's calls for peace during his visit: "May Christians and Muslims pray intensely for the fundamental good of peace to reign in the world".

Sharon threatens US policy

Hamburg's Die Welt warns that Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's cancellation of talks between Foreign Minister Shimon Peres and Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat could make US strategy in the Middle East difficult, if not impossible.

This would in turn be an added burden on the Bush administration's already critical view of Israel, it says. "Sharon was a brilliant troop commander but he was never a strategist," the paper notes.

"Everything is at stake for Israel at present: the shape of the Middle East, the US guarantee, internal consensus - and Sharon's tactics could turn into a tragedy," it says.

Not going to the Poles

Vienna's Der Standard believes the victory of the Democratic Left Alliance in Sunday's election in Poland signals the demise both of the parties that emerged from the Solidarity movement as well as of Catholicism as a political force.

"Barely 40% of the Polish electorate cast their vote on Sunday. This shows the extent of the resentment that built up during the four years of the centre-right government," it says.

Vienna's Die Presse says that democracy in general was the loser in the elections.

"The alarmingly low election turnout", the paper says, shows that neither the political successors to the Solidarity movement nor the Catholic Church managed to "win over the hearts and minds of Poles regarding the basic condition needed for a democratic system: participating in the political process".

The Polish people must grasp the importance of a "democratically-legitimated liberal system" for promoting a market economy. "If the system is as fragile as it has now proved to be in Poland, then it can just as easily be swept away again under changed circumstances," the paper says.

Threat to EU enlargement

Germany's Frankfurter Rundschau notes that the established parties in Poland underestimated the "mental trauma of the impoverished rural population," which had been denied EU funding by bureaucratic red tape.

"The strengthening of the anti-European protest parties on the right must also be a worry for Poland's future EU partners," the paper says.

"The Poles' growing EU scepticism may endanger not only the membership of the largest candidate country but the whole enlargement project," the paper warns.

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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