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Last Updated: Wednesday, 24 September, 2003, 08:28 GMT 09:28 UK
European press review

The opening session of the United Nations General Assembly on Tuesday in New York has once again brought the media spotlight on to the fraught relations between France - and, by implication, Europe - and the US over Iraq.

And there is satisfaction in Switzerland as the country's air carrier hopes that joining a British-led alliance will bring a boost to its ailing fortunes.

'Fingertip-clapping' at UN

"Chirac defends UN against Bush" is the headline in France's leading daily Le Monde.

The paper says that the two leaders' speeches showed that "the differences between France and the US over the Iraq war and the UN's role in international politics remain complete and unchanged".

Chirac presented himself as the champion of the rule of international law
Le Figaro
Mr Bush and Mr Chirac, the paper believes, are "entrenched in their positions".

Paris's Le Figaro calls it the "divergence cordiale" in a front-page headline.

As the paper sees it, the clash was inevitable.

Jacques Chirac, it notes, "presented himself as the champion of the rule of international law" while George W Bush "came across as the lord of global antiterrorism".

The French president, it observes, "paid close attention to Bush's speech, and even applauded politely, with his fingertips".

But President Bush, it adds, "had already left the hall when his French opposite number started to speak".

The Paris-based International Herald Tribune says that most of what was said at the UN "underscored how deep the divisions remained" over Iraq.

"At the centre of the divide," the paper says, was President Bush's "unapologetic defence of the war, which was met by an equally unapologetic attack by President Jacques Chirac".

France's Nouvel Observateur remarks that France's attitude "is praised in the Third World and especially, of course, among the Arabs", but Paris "seems unsure how to use" the "accrued prestige and capital" of goodwill it has earned.

View from Germany...

In Germany, the Sueddeutsche Zeitung sees conciliatory remarks by President Bush ahead of a meeting with Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder as merely highlighting the continuing misunderstandings between the two countries.

The paper takes issue with Mr Bush for explaining Berlin's opposition to the Iraq war on the grounds that Germans are essentially pacifist.

"Bush's remarks", it says, "reveal with perfect clarity the extent to which the leaders of the two countries are still talking at cross-purposes".

Its compatriot Die Welt, on the other hand, describes the American president's remarks as "forgiving, kind, full of sympathy".

"If only the flirting exchange of tender words had begun before the Iraq war," it says, "the transatlantic relationship would have been spared a lot."

Austria's Der Standard warns France and Germany against taking a "told you so" attitude.

Putin heads for Camp David

President Putin will be meeting George W Bush exactly two years after Russian foreign policy turned right round towards the US
Vedomosti
Russia's government paper Rossiyskaya Gazeta reports on President Vladimir Putin's meeting with his US counterpart in Camp David.

"The fact that Putin will be the first Russian leader to visit Bush's country residence," it says, "isn't the only thing that makes the meeting between the Russian and US presidents at Camp David unusual."

It points out that "both Putin and Bush have more or less entered the run-up to elections," adding that this is, however, "rather less of a constraint on Putin than on Bush".

"The Russian president's rating is stable," the newspaper stresses.

The pro-Kremlin business daily Vedomosti says that "President Putin will be meeting George Bush exactly two years after Russian foreign policy turned right round towards the US."

Marriage of convenience?

Switzerland's ailing airline Swiss on Tuesday joined the British Airways-led Oneworld alliance of air carriers.

"Three months ago to the day," Geneva's Le Temps recalls, "Swiss sacked 3,000 workers and cut its routes by a third".

That step, it argues, "reflected the company's fragility, but was also the first truly vigorous response to the crisis".

Swiss on Tuesday "finally realised its earliest objective" of "joining a worldwide alliance" of air carriers.

In so doing, it believes, the company is "more nervous but less alone", and "has improved its chances of survival".

As for La Tribune de Geneve, joining Oneworld was actually Swiss's "only chance of survival".

Moscow's hedgehogs

The Moscow daily Moskovskiy Komsomolets reports on a new project to build a barrier to stop hedgehogs getting run over on a main road outside Moscow.

The fence will have the added bonus of reducing traffic noise for the residents of out-of-town houses near the Rublevo-Uspenskoye road.

"For this purpose, so-called anti-noise metallic fencing is to be set up along each side of the highway," the paper says.

"Environmental experts say that the barrier will save the lives of hundreds of the prickly inhabitants of the surrounding tracts of forest, who often run out into the road and get run over," concludes the daily.

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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