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Last Updated: Friday, 7 January, 2005, 06:51 GMT
European press review

Friday's European papers appear broadly satisfied with the outcome of the tsunami aid summit in Indonesia, with the US earning special praise.

In Sweden, two papers demand greater openness from the government as the task of identifying the disaster's victims continues.

And in France, the sense of anxiety is clear following the disappearance in Iraq of a correspondent working for a leading Paris daily.

Aid for Asia

World leaders meeting in Jakarta on Thursday were urged to honour their commitments to provide aid for the victims of the Asian tsunami disaster, a message echoed in a number of European papers.

"The pledge race is certainly preferable to the arms race," says France's Liberation.

"But we have also been warned," it adds, "that... promises are often only binding on those who believe them."

The paper suggests "a vigilant public" and "pressure from the media" will be required to ensure that the billions of dollars and euros pledged so far do in fact materialise.

[The disaster] has revealed a generous and compassionate America
Tribune de Geneve
But the summit in Indonesia would already appear to have made its mark.

In the paper's opinion, "perhaps the most positive result... was the US decision not to deprive the UN of its natural role" of supervising the various relief operations.

Spain's El Pais agrees, welcoming Washington's decision to dissolve its aid "coalition" with Australia, India and Japan.

In so doing, it notes, "the Bush administration has recognised the leading role that rightfully belongs" to the UN.

In the meantime, however, the paper has little time for what it terms "the stinginess of the Gulf oil kingdoms", which "have benefited so much from the labour provided by the part of the world that was laid waste".

The US response to the disaster also comes in for praise from Swiss daily Tribune de Geneve.

"The tsunami has brought about a miracle!" it exclaims. "It has revealed a generous and compassionate America, ready to submit itself to the international order in order to attend to the victims' urgent needs."

It may be, the paper ventures, that the US has launched a "marketing operation" designed to put events in Iraq in the shade.

"But the facts are there," it asserts," and a George Bush in the role of 'good guy' - even in the eyes of part of the Muslim world - is so rare an event that it must be duly noted."

Swedish secrets

For two of Sweden's papers, the most urgent task now facing the authorities in Stockholm is to release full details of those Swedes thought to have been lost in the tsunami disaster.

Expressen notes that the police in Norway published a list of 275 possible victims, prompting 195 of them to come forward.

In Sweden, however, Prime Minister Goran Persson handed a similar list over to the police, who promptly stamped it "classified" under the country's official secrets act.

The state acted inflexibly and far too slowly in the crucial period after the disaster
Sydsvenska Dagbladet
The paper suggests Mr Persson would do well to follow Norway's lead.

"The eyes and ears of millions of Swedes are a significantly more powerful search tool than those of a few hundred police officers," it says.

The top priority, it adds, should be to "do everything to allow more people to get in touch and say those fantastic words: 'I'm alive'".

"The prime minister's blackout has in all likelihood delayed the publication of an accurate list of those who are missing," the paper concludes.

Sydsvenska Dagbladet chooses to focus on plans to allow greater access to the results of blood tests conducted in Sweden over the last 30 years, as the process of identifying the disaster's victims continues.

In normal circumstances, the paper says, the register is protected by "strict rules".

But "these are not normal circumstances", it observes. "A time-limited change in the law to ease identification would be welcome."

"The state acted inflexibly and far too slowly in the crucial period after the disaster," the paper complains.

"Serious measures are now needed if the follow-up is not to go the same way."

French reporter missing in Iraq

France's Liberation faces worrying times as it reports on the disappearance in Baghdad of one of its correspondents and her Iraqi interpreter.

Florence Aubenas and Hussein Hanoun al-Saadi were last seen leaving their hotel in the centre of the Iraqi capital on Wednesday morning.

It is our role as journalists to bear witness for as long as possible to a situation of crisis or war which concerns everyone
"We have not heard from them since," the paper says, "and the time gap is sufficiently important to sound the alert and make public our anxiety."

The paper also defends its earlier decision to remain in Iraq, noting that it was "the result of a collective editorial decision" and pointing out that "reporters go on a voluntary basis".

And this resolve prevailed despite the abduction last August of French journalists Christian Chesnot and Georges Malbrunot, who were only released four months later.

"We deemed it important... to remain on site," the paper argues, "because it is our role as journalists to bear witness for as long as possible to a situation of crisis or war which concerns everyone."

Le Figaro draws the conclusion which its fellow Paris daily chooses to avoid.

"They may have been kidnapped," it warns, adding that Ms Aubenas is "a seasoned reporter... accustomed to working in dangerous parts of the world".

The paper also notes the French foreign ministry's advice to French nationals, including "representatives of the media", not to travel to Iraq.

Le Nouvel Observateur, meanwhile, turns to Mr Malbrunot for his views.

"There will be many more abductions," the paper quotes him as saying.

"In Baghdad, we can no longer go where the news is," he remarks. "The risk for Western journalists is too high."

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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