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Last Updated: Thursday, 7 September 2006, 04:56 GMT 05:56 UK
European press review
European press

The furore among British Labour Party ranks over Prime Minister Tony Blair's departure date is front-page material across Europe.

German papers analyse the future of the country's international peacekeeping role, while the Kampusch affair in Austria remains a source of fascination.

'Unloved' Blair

Spain's El Pais says Prime Minister Tony Blair "is dragging the Labour Party down with him," by refusing to specify a clear departure date from power.

"After being one of the most innovative leaders of the Left," it adds, he "has now lost popularity due to his unconditional alignment with Bush in the Iraq war."

To make matters worse, it notes, "this summer he opposed a rapid cease-fire in the devastating war in Lebanon."

The daily says back home Blair has failed to deal with "crime and the causes of crime" - as he promised to do in 1997 - and instead Britain has seen a rise in "antisocial behaviour."

The former charismatic figure is being forced out of office as an unloved prime minister
Berliner Zeitung

The Labour Party conference in Manchester on 24 September would be a good occasion for Mr Blair "to dispel the doubts and announce a date," the paper says.

"If not his legacy will be poisoned," although "it could be, that it's already too late," the paper concludes.

Germany's Berliner Zeitung says Mr Blair has achieved much but will be forced out of office at a time when he and his party are unpopular.

"He has been too subservient in backing America in the Iraq war; he has been too obstinate in blocking the path of up-and-coming party members, including that of a successor; and he has been too narcissistic in paying more attention to selling his policies than to their substance," it says.

The paper concludes that despite Mr Blair's achievements "the former charismatic figure is being forced out of office as an unloved prime minister".

Austria's Der Standard says Tony Blair missed the right moment for him to quit "a long time ago".

"The best thing would be if he left the stage straight away, without any encore," it says.

Like Thatcher

The Serbian daily Politika believes that Tony Blair's days are numbered.

Even though Mr Blair in theory could remain in Downing Street until 2010, it adds, he "has realised that not even a full third term is an option".

Slovenia's Dnevnik says that "Blair was the most popular British prime minister of the 20th century."

"But the decision to take part in the US invasion of Iraq and his chumminess with Bush," it explains, "have undermined his popularity more than anything else."

It adds that he must now be feeling like Margaret Thatcher "when her own ministers shoved a knife in her back and got rid of her".

Romania's Gandul says that "Blair's popularity within the Labour Party has plummeted due to his open support of Israel in the fight against Hezbollah, after it was already eroded by his position on the Iraq war and the numerous corruption scandals in which several ministers from his three governments were involved".

Russia's Rossiyskaya Gazeta says that while Mr Blair's "mutinous MPs and ministers are trying to pull the prime ministerial chair from under him" as soon as possible "he is stoically resisting."

Tony Blair's refusal to name his exit date, it adds, because if he does "he will instantly turn into a lame duck ... unable to properly lead Whitehall or the country as a whole."

German peacekeepers

Germany's Der Tagesspiegel says politicians need to do more to explain the country's role in the world after Chancellor Angela Merkel ruled out any contribution to a peacekeeping force in Sudan's Darfur region.

The paper quotes Mrs Merkel as telling parliament that "at the moment" she sees no scope for a commitment in Darfur in addition to Germany's participation in a peacekeeping force in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

"This is little attention for an African tragedy in which to date about 300 times as many people have been killed as in the Lebanon war," it says.

It concludes that what is needed is "more political persuasiveness" to explain "Germany's new departure into the world".

Germany's Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung also finds political debates on peacekeeping missions wanting.

It warns that "sweeping statements" to justify the DR Congo deployment while rejecting participation in a Darfur mission "will not convince people for much longer".

"But in this parliamentary debate there was no sign of a set of criteria based on German interests by means of which any military intervention is checked in terms of aims, means, chances, risks and exit strategies," it says.

Buried alive

Natascha Kampusch has chosen to speak out because she quickly realised that staying silent would have locked her away on the outside
Liberation
France's Liberation carries a picture of Natascha Kampusch, the Austrian girl who spent eight years in captivity and gave her first interview to Austrian TV yesterday.

The picture is a still photo from Austrian TV, showing the teenager, her hair carefully tucked under a headscarf, over a headline that reads: "I was stronger than him."

"Miraculous", "quasi-resurrection" and "heart-breaking" is how Liberation's editorial describes her re-emergence.

"Natascha Kampusch has chosen to speak out because she quickly realised that staying silent would have locked her away on the outside perhaps to more destructive effect than did the prison where she spent eight years buried alive."

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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