Le Monde of Paris led Thursday with President Jacques Chirac's warning to Saddam Hussein that time is running out for Iraq, and beneath this headline ran a front-page cartoon of the angel of death, statement in hand, approaching a lectern bearing the seal of the president of the United States. Le Monde also devoted a whole page to an article titled "The Clinton Haters' Club" about a group of right-wingers--including Grover Norquist Jr., Arianna Huffington, R. Emmett Tyrrell Jr., and the British journalist Ambrose Evans-Pritchard, "one of the heroes of the Clinton haters"--who met once a week for dinner in a private room of La Brasserie in Washington, D.C., to "plot" against the president.
Wednesday, Le Monde, in its main headline, portrayed France as the leader of the last battle to stop a war against Iraq and reprinted in French translation Tom Clancy's anti-bombing New York Times article on its front page. In a front-page column in the conservative Le Figaro, Charles Lambroschini commended the French government for inventing the concept of "white glove inspections" as a face-saver for Saddam and said that, despite the U.S. media's criticism of France, President Clinton should be pleased about France's independent line, because "he can longer hide his own doubts about the effectiveness of a bombing campaign."
While Clinton couldn't be sure of destroying Saddam's "diabolic arsenal," Lambroschini said, he could be "virtually certain of unleashing a wave of anti-American and pro-Islamic feeling in the Middle East." The Irish Times led Thursday with an interview with Chinese foreign minister Qian Qichen, who said that war "must not be waged" against Iraq and left open the possibility that China might use its veto power on the U.N. Security Council to oppose a U.S. attack.
The conservative Daily Telegraph of London extracted an admission Thursday from the British government that until last year, it had permitted the export to Iraq of materials used in the production of anthrax. In an editorial, the Telegraph described U.S. indecision about whether to grant an entry visa to Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams as "obscene," said that the questions about Ireland from U.S. legislators of British Prime Minister Tony Blair during his recent visit to Washington were "of the kind that ought to be reserved for a Turkish president accounting for his country's treatment of the Kurds--not for America's closest democratic ally," and urged the British government to embark on a serious propaganda war that would defeat "the terrorists ... on the battlefield of ideas, as well as in the back streets of Belfast." The Irish Independent led on chairman of the Ulster peace talks and former U.S. Sen. George Mitchell, who warned of fresh violence but continued to insist that a peace agreement "can be done and will be done" by the May 1 deadline.
In an interview with Corriere della Sera of Milan, U.S. Air Force Gen. Charles Horner, who commanded the air offensive in the Gulf War, said that if Clinton's aim was to destroy the sites Iraq had declared off-limits to U.N. inspectors, "we have failed before even beginning, since nobody knows where they are." Attempting to kill Saddam would also be "ridiculous," he said, for it would mean bombing Baghdad and killing thousands of innocent people when "Saddam's skin isn't worth a single Iraqi, American, or allied life." Asked what advice he would give Clinton, Horner replied, "Don't send your troops to die and to kill for something you don't fully understand." La Repubblica of Rome reported Thursday that the pope said he would go to Baghdad, but not before the year 2000.
On its editorial page, Le Monde published an analysis of the situation in Iran, holding out little hope of a real rapprochement between the West and Iran following its reaffirmation of the fatwa against Salman Rushdie and the death sentence passed recently on a German for having sexual relations with a Muslim woman. Le Monde Thursday carried a front-page report that the traffic lights in Bogota, Colombia, one of the world's most violent and disorderly cities, were now being switched off during the night to reduce the number of accidents caused by motorists crashing into them. Most French and Italian newspapers published multipage eulogies of the German writer Ernst Juenger (a World War I veteran who celebrated the Prussian military and attacked democracy in his early novels but went on to oppose Hitler), who died this week at the age of 102. In Britain, the weekly New Scientist magazine reported that a study showing that cannabis is safer than alcohol or tobacco had been suppressed by the World Health Organization under pressure from U.S. drug officials and advisers from the U.N. Drug Control Program. Le Figaro of Paris reported Thursday that drinking two or three glasses of wine a day has been proved to cut the risk of death from cancer by 20 percent among Alsatian men.
On its front page the Asian Age of India reported that the Indian election campaign had set new standards of vulgar and abusive language. For example, the Shiv Sena party leader, Bal Thackeray, told an opponent to "get circumcised" if he had so much empathy with Muslims, and informed Congress Party leaders that their dependence on Sonia Gandhi (widow of onetime Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi) showed they were "impotent." Even a former minister of parliamentary affairs, whose job had been to uphold standards of parliamentary behavior, stated publicly that Sonia Gandhi's political opponents were "shit scared" of her, the Asian Age said.