What the foreign papers are saying.
Feb. 14 1998 3:30 AM

The Iraqi crisis continued to deepen divisions within Europe, generating growing antipathy toward Britain's unconditional support of the United States. In an editorial Wednesday, France's most influential newspaper, Le Monde of Paris, described Germany's support of the United States as "simply traditional" but said British Prime Minister Tony Blair's "stentorian position" was more irksome to Europe. From the start, said Le Monde, Blair has taken a stance in favor of military action against Iraq without consulting his European partners, while at the same time proposing himself as a candidate for the future leadership of Europe.


In La Stampa of Turin, Boris Biancheri, an Italian ex-ambassador to both the United States and Britain, accused the United States of "giving world public opinion the impression that the showdown with Iraq reflected not so much respect for U.N. resolutions as a wish to end a match with Saddam Hussein that had been left unfinished by Operation Desert Storm."

The British, he said, were behaving "as if the rules of European foreign and security policy did not exist," and seem to love wars. "The Falklands War boosted the popularity of Mrs. Thatcher, and the Gulf War turned out to be fruitful for both Britain's military and economic prestige," Biancheri added. "The British seem to be saying to themselves, 'We have an experienced and excellent professional army, so let's keep it busy.' "

The conservative Paris newspaper Le Figaro, under the headline "Britain Goes to War," reported British opinion polls showing a majority of 56 percent in favor of bombing Iraq. This, it suggested, was because the British were "inundated daily with 'revelations' about Saddam's arsenal"--a comment not without substance. In Spain, El País said the United States should be denied use of Spanish military bases. In an editorial Wednesday, it condemned "an operation that will end up by hurting the Iraqi people much more than it will hurt Saddam Hussein." Nevertheless, the next day's paper led with an offer of support from the Spanish leader, José Maria Aznar, which included giving the U.S. forces access to the bases.

Within Britain, press opinion was generally divided between rejection of military action against Iraq and support for it on condition that it resulted in the elimination of Saddam Hussein. The Independent, in a front-page editorial, said that "profound errors of judgement are about to be made." It said that "the purposes of the military adventure in Iraq remain fatally unspecific," and added that one reason Saddam had not dared to use his biological and chemical weapons during the Gulf War was the weight of Arab power ranged against him.


"Without the kind of coalition created during the Gulf War, gung-ho Anglo-American militarism is especially offensive. Worse still, it will be ineffective," the Independent concluded. The newspaper also published an interview with former U.N. Secretary-General Boutros Boutros-Ghali, condemning the United States and saying he was "astonished" that nobody considered the sufferings of the Iraqi people--"[a]nd the UN, remember, was an institution created to protect the people."

The Guardian, another liberal British newspaper, said in an editorial that the U.S. refusal to accept Cuban and Iranian inspectors in a team due to inspect U.S. chemical-weapons facilities was justified by "precisely the same argument used by Baghdad about the preponderance of US--and British--inspectors on the team now in dispute." The impression of double standards being applied was particularly strong where it did most damage--in the Middle East, the Guardian concluded. The Egyptian Foreign Minister, Amr Moussa, told Le Monde in an interview that "nothing can justify the military option."

The Times of London, which led its front page with a story about an astonishing secret alliance between Iraq and Iran to oppose the United States, said in an editorial that Blair was neither "an American poodle nor the EU's lapdog," and that he couldn't be the toast of both Bill Clinton and continental Europe. A European foreign and security policy, it said, would be insular and isolationist and would invariably prefer appeasement to intervention. "The President should note that the special relationship cannot be reconciled with the creation of a European state that includes this country," it said. In the conservative tabloid the Express, former Conservative Prime Minister John Major wrote an article supporting Blair.

The conservative Daily Telegraph published an article by former U.S. Assistant Secretary of Defense Richard Perle proposing that the West recognize and arm a provisional Iraqi government to overthrow the Ba'ath regime, and ran an editorial supporting him under the headline "Target Saddam." Thursday, the Telegraph carried a front-page report by its resident conservative conspiracy theorist, Ambrose Evans-Pritchard, that former White House Director of Special Projects and Special Needs Robyn Dickey had been "transferred abruptly to a job at the Defence Department after she was named as a long-standing lover of President Clinton in Paula Jones's sexual harassment lawsuit."

In an editorial, the Telegraph blasted Tina Brown, the British editor of TheNewYorker, for her sycophantic treatment of Clinton and Blair. Under the headline "Tina-bopping," the newspaper quoted from an article she had written for her own magazine about the White House dinner for the British prime minister, accusing her of "sheer gush" and "babbling soppiness" toward both him and his host, the president. "Come back and help our 'clever, young and unsullied' prime minister in his desperate struggle to keep Labour trendy after nine months in power," it said. "Come back and bathe him in the balm of your adjectives."

In the French and Italian press, many column inches were devoted to Robert De Niro's interrogation as a witness by a Paris magistrate in connection with an international call-girl scandal, and in the British press much space was given to Mohammed Al Fayed's interview with the tabloid Daily Mirror saying he believed that the deaths of his son Dodi and his friend Princess Diana had been the result of a "conspiracy."