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Monday, 17 February, 2003, 05:48 GMT
European press review
This weekend's anti-war demonstrations take up large parts of the European press.

Newspapers across the continent debate whether the protests will succeed in averting an attack on Iraq.

Several papers analyse the prospects for Monday's European Union summit, called to discuss the crisis caused by divisions over Iraq.

People power

"The world demo" reads the headline on the Paris daily Liberation, which shows protesters in London's Trafalgar Square holding a banner reading simply: "No!"

Governments will find it harder than before to ignore the public

Tageszeitung

The paper hails Saturday's worldwide anti-war demonstrations as an "unprecedented mobilization".

Germany's Tageszeitung is equally upbeat as it notes a change in public mood following the protests.

"Suddenly millions of people in Europe and the world can nurture the hope that they themselves can do something - by taking to the streets," it says.

It is not the task of democratic governments to place themselves above the wishes of their citizens

El Mundo

The paper thinks that after this weekend "governments will find it harder than before to ignore the public".

This view is echoed in the Russian government mouthpiece Rossiyskaya Gazeta. It says that the world doesn't want a war and the "unprecedented scale" of the protests proves this.

"Politicians will be obliged to consider public opinion because when millions take to the streets it's a serious matter."

Lessons learned

The Madrid daily El Mundo feels that the demonstrations are a lesson to governments which support the US stance - such as that of Spanish Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar.

"The prime minister must learn some kind of lesson from the massive rejection of his policy," the paper argues.

"It is not the task of democratic governments to place themselves above the wishes of their citizens, as if the latter were unable to hold opinions," it adds.

The Russian liberal daily Vremya Novostey believes that Britain's Tony Blair has indeed taken heed.

"The demonstrations were so striking that Mr Blair in essence for the first time admitted the possibility of disarming Iraq by peaceful means," it says.

Reluctant hero

The front-page of the Paris daily, Le Figaro, shows a photo of New Yorkers standing behind an anti-war banner on which the words "Merci la France" are visible.

Some people are prisoners of war - as for Chirac, he is a prisoner of peace

Liberation

But Liberation suggests that President Jacques Chirac may become uncomfortable with his new role as "global hero of peace".

"He has always maintained simultaneously that he is opposed to the American juggernaut and that he is ready to jump on the bandwagon at the last minute," it observes.

But his opposition to war has been so successful that Mr Chirac will require "enormous agility" to perform the latter feat, it says. "Some people are prisoners of war. As for Chirac, he is a prisoner of peace."

EU united

The British prime minister and German Chancellor Schroeder also come in for some criticism.

For the first time the lack of definition of a common foreign and security policy has put the EU members up against a crisis of extreme gravity

ABC

The two leaders are guilty of "one shameful thing," says the Berliner Zeitung. That is they set out their Iraqi policy unilaterally rather than coordinating with the rest of the European Union.

It calls for today's emergency EU summit to oppose this unilateralism. "This is demanded not only by millions of demonstrators but also by the EU Treaty and UN Charter."

The Spanish daily ABC also welcomes Greek EU presidency's decision to call the summit.

"For the first time the lack of definition of a common foreign and security policy has put the EU members up against a crisis of extreme gravity," it observes.

But the paper is disappointed that the 10 central European countries due to join the EU were not invited to the meeting. The majority of these states are aligned with Washington's policy.

"One gets the feeling that the Greek presidency is acting in favour of one of the two stances over which the Fifteen already seem divided," it comments.

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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