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Last Updated: Wednesday, 9 February, 2005, 12:33 GMT
Rice speech wins measured reviews
Condoleezza Rice speaking at the Institute of Political Sciences in Paris
Ms Rice sought a 'new chapter' in ties with Europe

Newspapers in Europe are cautiously optimistic about the prospects for a rapprochement with the US following Condoleezza Rice's speech in Paris calling for a new chapter in transatlantic relations.

In France itself, Le Monde views the new US secretary of state's address as "a clear turning-point in a French-American relationship deeply damaged by Paris's opposition to the Iraq war and its subsequent refusal to support the endless occupation".

Washington "seems determined to regard the restoration of transatlantic relations as the focal point of President Bush's second term", it adds.

Another French daily, Liberation, agrees - albeit in language that blames recent differences squarely on the US administration.

'Broken crockery'

President George W Bush, it says, "has obviously placed at the top of his agenda the mending of all the diplomatic crockery that he broke" during his first term.

But it doubts the depth of Washington's apparent conversion.

Has Mr Bush "really undergone a strategic conversion to the virtues of multilateralism and dialogue", it wonders, or is this "a mere tactical adjustment resulting from his difficulties in Iraq?"

In Germany, the Frankfurter Rundschau warns against reading too much into Ms Rice's tour, which it views as "the prologue to the actual play" - Mr Bush's visit to Brussels later this month.


It sees a broader desire on both sides to improve the tone of transatlantic relations.

"It's about a determination to improve the climate, and the prospects for this are not bad," it says, citing the "relaxed flirting" between Ms Rice and Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder in Berlin last week and the US's re-engagement with efforts to settle the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Recalling Ms Rice's famous comment about US policy towards the major European opponents of the Iraq war, it concludes:

"Clearly, the time when Condoleezza Rice advised her boss to ignore Germany and punish France is now past."

The Berliner Zeiting similarly perceives a change in tone.


It believes the use of the Paris Institute of Political Studies for Ms Rice's speech is significant.

"The venue encouraged hopes that France and the US want to look forwards in a spirit of partnership," it says.

The institute, it adds, is "the type of place where the aim is not to smear those who disagree with you but to persuade them with your arguments".

But it warns against expecting too much.

"However hard she tried to build bridges and highlight points of agreement, the potential for conflict with France is still very much there," it notes, citing differences on the role of the UN and the arms embargo on China.

Mixed reviews

Comment in Spain is divided.

El Mundo pays tribute to Ms Rice's "undoubted bravery" in choosing Paris - "the epicentre of opposition to the Iraq war" - for her first speech as secretary of state.

But two other Spanish dailies are distinctly lukewarm.

Her speech "communicated great emotional tension but suffered from a lack of content beyond the call to strengthen the transatlantic bond and overcome profound disagreements about Iraq", says El Pais.

In the view of La Razon, Ms Rice offered "a half-baked reconciliation to the EU countries which split with Washington after the invasion of Iraq".

"Those who expected an outstretched hand found it, but with conditions: to join Bush and his allies to end dictatorships and export liberty," it says.

Ms Rice's speech passed almost unnoticed in Italy, where her visit earlier in the day had been downgraded after illness prevented both the Pope and Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi from meeting her.

In its report, La Repubblica notes that she "is offering peace to Europe" and that she did so in "the very European country which for two years has tried to hinder the Bush administration's plans".


There is also a cautious response in parts of what a colleague of Ms Rice's once termed "new Europe".

A commentator in Poland's Rzeczpospolita complains that Ms Rice "made relations with Europe only the second subject in her speech" and "did not present any specific proposals for co-operation with the European Union, or particularly with France".

And in Slovenia, a writer in the Dnevnik daily says that while Germany and France are "willing to bury some old grudges with the US", because "nobody in Europe wants Iraq to continue being the epicentre of terrorism", there is a string attached: "The US should hurry up and leave Iraq."

BBC Monitoring selects and translates news from radio, television, press, news agencies and the Internet from 150 countries in more than 70 languages. It is based in Caversham, UK, and has several bureaus abroad.


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