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 Tuesday, 28 January, 2003, 06:35 GMT
European press review

The UN weapons inspectors' report on Iraq dominates Europe's editorial columns today

There is also criticism of the timing of a call for a German memorial day for those killed in World War II, and a Finnish paper worries that the EU's eastward enlargement will lead to increased alcoholism.

Mixed assessment

"Blix forces Bush to wait" is the verdict of France's Le Figaro in its front-page headline on the UN inspectors' report, which it says gave a "mixed assessment" on Iraqi cooperation.

French paper Liberation says that Hans Blix "refused to take sides with the supporters or the opponents of military action against Saddam Hussein".

"The extension of the UN mission... was not a forgone conclusion," it says, adding that by going along with the extension President Bush and UK Prime Minister Tony Blair "have shown that they are not indifferent" to UN authorisation.

But it notes that Washington has virtually completed the deployment of its forces in the Gulf and says "it is difficult to see how they could avoid using them".

The time factor

Germany's Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung detects ulterior motives in the emerging consensus that the inspectors should be granted more time.

The content of the weapons inspectors' report was hot enough

Sydsvenska Dagbladet

The Americans are warming to the idea "because the deployment of troops takes time and perhaps because there is dwindling domestic support".

It says Germany, on the other hand, wants to give the inspectors more time in order to slam shut the "climate window" for war.

Sweden's Sydsvenska Dagbladet says that while the UN Security Council was not presented with a 'smoking gun', the content of the weapons inspectors' report was "hot enough".

"Iraq cannot credibly claim that the country is living up to the requirements of resolution 1441," the paper says.

For Stockholm tabloid Aftonbladet , however, "there is no argument for war".

Switzerland's Le Temps meanwhile says that: "As each day passes war becomes more likely because the 'markets' don't like uncertainty and are making it known."

"Iraq is not only a country and a population, it is a factor of financial instability," the paper asserts.

No backing down

The view among most Russian commentators is that the report fell short of Washington's expectations, but that it will not halt the momentum towards war.

Washington does not know how to back down and does not like doing it

Rossiyskaya Gazeta

"The more obvious it becomes that Iraq does not possess weapons of mass destruction, the more categorical and intransigent becomes the tone of pronouncements by US officials," says an article in government newspaper Rossiyskaya Gazeta .

"Washington does not know how to back down and does not like doing it," it says.

An article in Nezavisimaya Gazeta accuses the US and Britain of "performing a shameful farce before the eyes of the entire world, which could be caught up in large loss of completely innocent life."

"Iraq is to blame for possessing fantastically large quantities of oil," is its conclusion.

German memorial call

Germany's Der Tagesspiegel takes issue with the timing of a German MP's proposal for a memorial day for German victims of the Allied bombing campaign in World War II.

The paper calls it "unseemly" that the MP concerned intends to table a parliamentary motion on the matter in the same week that Holocaust Memorial Day is being commemorated.

"Somebody who around 27 January makes public the idea of a memorial day for German victims immediately raises the suspicion that the purpose is to once again compare what cannot be compared," it says.

Spirit of excess?

Finland's Swedish-language daily Helsinki Hufvudstadbladet is worried about alcohol consumption in the country increasing next year when Estonia joins the European Union.

Studies show that Finns start drinking more every time sales or imports of alcohol are increased

Hufvudstadbladet

Finns will be allowed to bring back 20 litres of alcoholic drinks from the country, instead of the current limit of just one.

"Studies show that Finns start drinking more every time sales or imports of alcohol are increased," the paper says, noting that the monopoly of state-run 'Alko' alcohol stores recently opened its 300th outlet.

"The results of rising alcohol consumption are increasingly widespread. Today around 3,500 people in Finland die every year as a result of alcohol abuse. This is more than seven times more than those who die on the roads. And more than 20 times more than the victims claimed by drugs."

"Free movement across borders is one of the cornerstones of the EU's Europe... This will compel new national political decisions about duties on alcohol and alcoholic drinks in Finland."

BBC Monitoring, based in Caversham in southern England, selects and translates information from radio, television, press, news agencies and the Internet from 150 countries in more than 70 languages.

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


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