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 Wednesday, 15 January, 2003, 07:00 GMT
European press review
Today's European dailies examine wavering support for war against Iraq, the Czech presidential election and a report on the 2001 Gothenburg riots.

And a Russian daily discovers a Harry Potter's dead ringer deep in the country's hinterland.

Europe opposes Iraq war

France's Le Monde says European opinion is "resolutely opposed to a military intervention to disarm Saddam Hussein".

The latest opinion polls show almost 60% of the British public and over 70% of the French are against war, the paper reports.

America has rightly condemned Saddam Hussein's cruel regime. So why the velvet glove approach to Kim Jong-il's even more criminal tyranny?

Le Monde

"This may not carry much weight with the United States but it does reflect a reality which cannot be ignored by Washington's main European allies."

"European scepticism is reinforced by America's attitude to North Korea's open nuclear threats," it adds.

But if Washington thinks it possible to "contain" Pyongyang by diplomatic means, could it not conceivably take the same attitude to Baghdad, the paper asks.

America has rightly condemned Saddam Hussein's "cruel regime", the paper notes. So "why the velvet glove approach to Kim Jong-il's even more criminal tyranny?" it wonders

"Until these questions are answered, European opinion will continue to question the real motivations of Mr Bush's Iraq policy," it concludes.

Schroeder seeks second resolution

German papers are divided on their government's stance on Iraq.

The Berliner Zeitung describes German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder's call for a second UN resolution before any military action is taken against Saddam Hussein as "essential".

It rejects the criticism that the government's anti-war stance has led to its international isolation.

Gerhard Schroeder's statement has given his policy a sense of direction again

Sueddeutsche Zeitung

"It's a strange world in which insisting on the law rather than sovereign contempt for it should mean isolation," it says.

The sentiment is echoed in The Sueddeutsche Zeitung.

The paper believes the chancellor has used his power to define the government's policies "to the full".

"Gerhard Schroeder's statement has given his policy a sense of direction again," it says.

But the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung says the government is sending out conflicting messages on Iraq, making life difficult for the German envoy at the United Nations.

It suggests that far from representing a principled stance, the chancellor's remarks may have been guided by electoral considerations.

"Let's hope somebody will tell our man in New York that state elections are due to be held on 2 February," it says.

Police failings at EU "orgy of vandalism"

The findings of the committee investigating the riots at the EU summit in Gothenburg in 2001 dominate the Swedish papers.

Dagens Nyheter, which describes the riots as "an orgy of vandalism and brutality lasting several days" says the committee is very clear on one point: the police were not sufficiently well prepared.

The course of events might have been different if the police had acted in a different manner. But this doesn't mean that the police caused the disorder

Sydsvenska Dagbladet

However, the paper feels the report should have included a more thorough analysis of the responsibilities of the demonstration organisers.

"Various things are said about the new political tendencies and how political involvement is expressed differently nowadays, but there is significantly less about the stone throwers attacking democracy."

Malmoe's Sydsvenska Dagbladet also feels the police were not solely responsible for the disturbances.

"It cannot be ruled out that the course of events might have been different if the police had acted in a different manner. But this doesn't mean that the police caused the disorder," the paper says.

Czech presidential choice

Papers in the Czech republic focus on today's presidential election.

For the first time in the Czech Republic's history, deputies and senators will really elect a new president. Nothing has been agreed upon beforehand and none of the four candidates is a favourite, Martin Zverina writes in the Lidove Noviny.

But each of the candidates seems to be problematic in some respect and no matter which one of them is elected, they will never enjoy influence and position comparable to the outgoing President Vaclav Havel, the writer concludes.

[In post-11 September world]... we should have a president who is capable of shouldering the risk and the responsibility as a commander

Pravo

The Pravo daily underlines the importance of the presidential role and the country's contribution in the coalition against terrorism.

"It is not only the impending concrete, relatively small war against Saddam Hussein which is at issue. It is mainly the ongoing undeclared war of the globally organised terrorism against our civilisation what imports. It will most probably escalate in years to come, and it is far from improbable that we will experience an 11 September of our own," the paper says.

"In such a situation we should have a president who is capable of shouldering the risk and the responsibility as a commander," the paper says.

Russia's Harry Potter

And in Russia, the Harry Potter phenomenon continues to enjoy considerable popularity, fuelled by the release of the second film in the Potter series.

The popular tabloid Komsomolskaya Pravda reports how Potter fans in the Republic of Bashkortostan found their own way to pay tribute to their hero.

A cinema in the city of Ufa played host to a Harry Potter look-alike contest, and such was the clamour to take part that two of the entrants were girls, it says.

In the end, amid stiff competition, the competition was won by 13-year-old Denis Tarasov, "the spitting image of Harry Potter", according to the paper. His prize - a huge poster, a calendar, a badge, and free cinema tickets.

But a slight let-down to report, the paper says is that Tarasov has never read a Harry Potter book in his life.

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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