British press praises Cameron's Libya 'victory tour'

16th September 2011, Comments 0 comments

David Cameron and Nicolas Sarkozy deserved the rapturous welcome they received on their joint visit to Libya, but both leaders seemed intent on stealing the limelight, Britain's press said Friday.

British Prime Minister Cameron and French President Sarkozy saluted a "free Libya" on Thursday as they greeted jubilant crowds in Benghazi, the headquarters of the rebel movement that overthrew Moamer Kadhafi.

The Times daily said the pair "betrayed no hint of triumphalism", drawing a sharp and deliberate contrast to the "hubristic 'Mission Accomplished' rhetoric of President Bush" after Iraq leader Saddam Hussein was deposed in 2003.

The joyous welcome was just rewards for Cameron and Sarkozy's push for a UN resolution to protect Benghazi's civilians, the Rupert-Murdoch owned title argued.

"It was right," the paper's editorial said of the "bold and risky" move. The NATO-led operation "prevented massive civilian casualties", for which Cameron and Sarkozy "deserve enduring credit," it added.

Popular centre-right publication the Daily Mail focused instead on the tussle for credit between the two leaders.

"Cameron flies in for Libya 'victory' tour," its headline read. "Victory over Sarko that is, as he and French premier compete for glory".

The paper's report described Cameron's reception as "a rock star's welcome" but added: "the trip seemed to deteriorate into a battle with Sarkozy to see who could garner the most credit for Kadhafi's downfall."

Despite the removal of veteran leader Moamer Kadhafi from power, the one-day trip also served as a reminder that plenty of work still lies ahead, Fleet Street agreed.

"Sarkozy and Cameron arrived in Tripoli and Benghazi yesterday like conquering heroes," said the Daily Telegraph's editorial.

The broadsheet paper definitely saw the kind of triumphalism which its ribal The Times said was absent.

"We must hope that their triumphalism does not prove premature," it added. "(Cameron) was wise to make it clear that, despite the collapse of Kadhafi's 42-year rule in Libya, the job is far from over."

Guardian columnist Simon Tisdall highlighted the likely benefits to France and Britain of the goodwill shown to them by Libya's new rulers.

"The British and French leaders arrived in hot pursuit of victors' laurels that may, in time, produce a handy financial payback," he argued. "This was, first and foremost, the Dave and Sarko spoils of war tour."

Tisdall backed Cameron's more cautious outlook on a possible Syrian intervention, but added "for today at least, Dave and Sarko were looking on the rosy side."

"And though they don't say so, they still have those lovely oil contracts to look forward to," he concluded.

© 2011 AFP

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