As claims and counter-claims in the Clearstream affair continue to dominate the headlines in France, newspapers say the ongoing judicial inquiry into the corruption scandal has to move quickly to resolve increasing public disquiet.
Many papers doubt that Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin can survive this latest crisis.
Alexis Brezet in Le Figaro [conservative daily]
By announcing that he was prepared to be questioned by the judicial authorities, Dominique de Villepin has taken the decision he had to take. We must hope that the investigation will move quickly. This bad soap opera has been dragging on for too long.
Pierre Haski in Liberation [left-leaning daily]
The judicial process has been set in motion and will have to show whether there has been a plot, misuse of the state's resources and... lying. The doubts that have taken hold in the country will not be swept away by theatrical arm-waving in the National Assembly but by a thorough elucidation of this affair, and the departure of those who have compromised themselves in it, regardless of the post they occupy.
Pascal Aubert in La Tribune [business daily]
The choice facing him [Villepin] today is both simple and cruel. He can leave, having agreed... with the president on the conditions for an honourable exit... Alternatively, he can stay on and take on the role of a political eunuch, one that is not in keeping with his temperament... In either case, the French have already moved on.
Jean-Paul Pierot in L'Humanite [Communist Party daily]
Political debate and democracy are likely to pay the price for this war between leaders. What can result from it, apart from a deep disgust at this descent into a murky world where politicians, arms dealers and secret agents rub shoulders, and where people rake in the cash without any fear of transparency?
Jacques Camus in La Republique du Centre [regional daily]
Dominique de Villepin, the alleged "manipulator", has passed himself off... as a scapegoat and the victim of a despicable political and media lynching... His stance may not be a convincing one but it prevents his "closest enemies" from attacking him without proof and from claiming his scalp. Nobody on the Right, least of all Sarkozy, has any interest in triggering a government crisis.
Pierre Taribo in L'Est Republicain [regional daily]
Two questions arise: can the dam which has been hastily built by Dominique de Villepin hold while the judiciary continue their investigations? And for how long will Nicolas Sarkozy, whose troops have put on their carnival masks to support him, come to his rescue? The fact of the matter is that Dominique de Villepin is hanging by a thread above an enormous precipice.
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