Le Monde, Paris, Feb. 18: The heat is rising between the two shores of the Atlantic. President Bush's State of the Union address and his "axis of evil" comment has sparked a less-than-amiable exchange. French Foreign Minister Hubert Vedrine fired the first shot, criticizing Bush's "simplism" and his "utilitarian unilateralism."
Although the Europeans are having some difficulties speaking with one voice, they are unanimous in criticizing the Americans' treatment of the Al-Qaida prisoners. They want to participate in a second phase of the war on terrorism but they do not think it should be exclusively military.
Unilateralism: They would like the United States to pay more attention to the causes of the hostility directed at them and the Western world. One of these causes is their unilateralism.
Colin Powell credits President Bush with telling "the truth as he sees it." It happens that the Europeans have a different truth to proclaim, even though they don't have the same means of defending it. Is it a crime against the superpower to dare to assert it?
The Guardian, London, Feb. 20: As insults fly, sanctions bite, and the political situation in Zimbabwe moves from serious to critical, a sense of perspective is increasingly important. Robert Mugabe, despite his racist taunts, intimidatory tactics and homophobic rants, has not rejected the democratic principle outright. He seeks to manipulate, not abolish, it. The president still craves the respectability, at home and abroad, that an election victory alone can confer.
Although he has cruelly exploited the issue, disproportionate white ownership of the best farming land is an abiding problem. And despite his ruling elite's economic mismanagement, corruption and abuses, Mr. Mugabe himself remains a sober, even austere figure. No profligate Papa Doc he, nor a barking, bonkers Bokassa either. Far less is he Africa's Saddam, an absurd comparison conjured by yesterday's Tory claim that Zimbabwe is a potential "rogue state."
Army intercession: With any ensuing state of emergency and army intercession would come the death of all lingering adherence to democratic principle. Zimbabwe's whole future is now at stake. Yet it is still hard to believe, despite everything, that Mr. Mugabe would make unmitigated despotism his final bequest to his young nation. As the West looks on impotently, it now falls to his neighbors to talk him back from the brink.
Svenska Dagbladet, Stockholm, Feb. 20: Russian government representatives had earlier alleged that the Russian nuclear submarine Kursk may have collided with an old mine or an alien submarine. But this was not the case. It was a domestic flaw. The torpedoes were about to be changed, but the accident happened before that.
State Prosecutor Vladimir Ustinov has said that both the Kursk's captain and the navy command had committed "serious mistakes" that could have contributed to the loss, which claimed the lives of the 118 crew members.
Truth: The accident is tragic, irrespective of the cause. But it is still a positive sign that the truth seems to surface in the Russia of today. Russian President Vladimir Putin has not been seen as a warm supporter of democracy and openness, rather the opposite. But evidently there are still limits to the mystery-mongering.
Jordan Times, Amman, Feb. 19: For over 19 months, Jordan, Egypt, the United States, Europe and many members of the international community have been trying to put an end to the violence that engulfed the Palestinian territories and Israel. Their efforts have come to naught. The responsibility for that falls on Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon.
The Israeli premier is still refusing to accept that there can be no military solution to the Palestinian issue. His failure to see the inevitability of reaching a political solution to the problem is inflicting a heavy human and material toll on Palestinians and Israelis alike.
But the damage goes beyond that. It is threatening the most essential requirement for peace in the region: Peoples' belief in its viability.
Deadly acts: If Sharon remains adamant in refusing to see the obvious, he must be made to do so, for the whole region will be paying dearly for his acts. It is true that the Palestinians have been the victims of Sharon's policies. But the Israelis have also suffered from their leader's rejection of the voice of reason.
El Mundo, Madrid, Feb. 19: Beside the anecdotes of his baffling support for Koizumi, whose economic reforms remain verbose without concrete action, the U.S. president's trip arouses deeper disquiet because one of his explicit aims is to garner support for his new anti-terrorist plans, including his already famous "axis of evil."
Fortunately, his first appearances in Asia after Japan have been more moderate in tone: He is still affirming that the axis of evil exists, but that those countries can be put back on course and that no military action is foreseen against them. A smoke screen, perhaps?
Carrot: In South Korea, he will have the opportunity to demonstrate if he is prepared to offer a carrot after wielding the stick. He will visit the Demilitarized Zone, and the Seoul government has begged him to back the process of opening and reconciliation with the North, not torpedo it.
It will be the trial by fire for this raging Bush.

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