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Last Updated: Friday, 26 March, 2004, 07:35 GMT
Symbolism of Gaddafi handshake

The handshake between Tony Blair and Colonel Muammar Gaddafi features prominently in every paper.

Such is the perceived symbolism of the greeting that the Times even has close-up photos of the leaders' hands moving towards each other in the moments before they touched.

In its analysis of the meeting, the Daily Mirror asks a body language expert for her opinion. She decides that the Libyan leader was "calling all the shots" and Mr Blair was "on the back foot".

The paper's editorial is not convinced though. It thinks neither man milked the situation and says it could not have been easy for the prime minister.

'Repenting sinner'

The Daily Mail on the other hand is less forgiving. It describes the pictures of Mr Blair and what it calls "the mass murderer" as "stomach churning".

The paper questions whether recent progress with Libya really merited such a high-profile visit.

The Independent asks whether the "golden" handshake was a brave step - or a cynical ploy.

It says Mr Blair is right to argue that there is real cause for rejoicing in a "sinner that repenteth" but it also suggests he needed the photo-opportunity to show that the invasion of Iraq has brought dividends in the Middle East.

Muslim 'failures'

The apparent significance of the handshake has also prompted several papers to look back at other, as the Sun puts it, "leaders who shook hands with the devil".

The Mirror's list of "handshakes that shook the world" includes Reagan and Gorbachev in 1986; De Klerk and Mandela in 1993; and in the same year, Rabin and Arafat.

The Daily Telegraph reports that the former Archbishop of Canterbury Lord Carey has criticised Islamic culture for being "authoritarian", "inflexible" and "under-achieving".

The paper says Lord Carey - who made the comments during a lecture in Rome - also attacked what he saw as the "glaring absence" of democracy in Muslim countries, and the failure of moderate Muslims to condemn unequivocally the "evil" of suicide bombers.

St George ban

Finally, several papers carry the story of a pub landlord from Norfolk who has been told he cannot get a late-licence on St George's Day because it is not a special occasion.

Tony Bennett, who runs The Otter in Drayton near Norwich, tells the Daily Telegraph that his celebration of being English would embrace all colours, classes and creeds - as well as offering roast beef and jellied eels.

The Mirror explains how he has in the past been granted extensions to mark the Chinese New Year and American Independence Day.


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