Mixed reactions in European papers over French involvement in Libya medics' release

25th July 2007, Comments 0 comments

PARIS, July 25, 2007 (AFP) - Many European papers on Wednesday slammed EU negotiators for folding to "blackmail" and paying "blood money" for Libya's release of six foreign medics, while others hailed France's intervention especially as an "unprecedented success".

PARIS, July 25, 2007 (AFP) - Many European papers on Wednesday slammed EU negotiators for folding to "blackmail" and paying "blood money" for Libya's release of six foreign medics, while others hailed France's intervention especially as an "unprecedented success".

In the Netherlands, NRC Handelsblad said the release of the medics on Tuesday after more than eight years in a Libyan jail was "a happy ending, but not that happy."

"Let's hope the European Union will remember ... that Libya is guilty of blackmail, of taking hostages and of accepting blood money," the paper said.

Danish daily Berlingske Tidene meanwhile charged the EU with "compensating" Libyan leader Moamer Kadhafi for his crimes.

"Crime always pays, at least if your name is Moamer Kadhafi and you are the absolute ruler of a country with oil ... and with a potentially very promising market on the borders of the EU," it said.

"Libya is today being compensated for having destroyed nine years of the lives of six innocent people," Czech daily Dnes chimed in.

The five Bulgarian nurses and one Palestinian doctor had been given death sentences commuted to life imprisonment for allegedly infecting 438 children with HIV-tainted blood in a Libyan hospital.

The medics, who have always denied the charges and say their confessions were extracted under torture, were flown to Bulgaria Tuesday under a deal with the European Union and with the intervention of French President Nicolas Sarkozy and his wife Cecilia.

Portuguese daily Diario de Noticias lamented Wednesday that the financial conditions behind the deal were "unclear".

Sarkozy claimed Europe had not paid "the slightest financial compensation" for the release, but others said both Paris and Brussels had contributed to the deal's bottom line.

Austrian daily Kurier spoke of "expensive freedom" for the medics, saying their release had led to "joy in Sofia, grins in Tripoli".

"What remains is the bitter after-taste of tough negotiations conducted by the EU with a state that de facto held six people hostage -- and will profit from their extradition enormously," Kurier wrote.

Der Standard meanwhile claimed the deal showed "the EU and its member states can be blackmailed and did not pay a small ransom."

London's Daily Telegraph said "the deal marks an undoubted victory for Libya's tough negotiating tactics," while the Times pointed out that the release was likely to lead to "lucrative contracts for French companies with the oil-rich African state."

Britain's The Guardian also criticised France for arriving late at the negotiation table and then stealing all the credit.

"The deal was negotiated by the EU but, in a bizarre twist to a sad tale, Nicolas Sarkozy's wife Cecilia turned up in Tripoli to gatecrash the delivery of the nurses," it said in an editorial.

Cecilia Sarkozy accompanied EU External Relations Commissioner Benita Ferrero-Waldner to Tripoli on Sunday to push for the medics' release and brought the six to Sofia in a French government jet.

Italian Repubblica had similar doubts over the role of the French first couple.

"President Sarkozy and his wife Cecilia, in many people's opinion, imposed themselves in the Libyan affair, demanding glory a posteriori, while in reality all the details had been decided at least two weeks earlier," it said.

Spain's largest daily however hailed the French president's wife with the headline: "Cecilia Sarkozy, mission accomplished."

And Belgium's Le Soir emphasised that "by introducing couple diplomacy, (President Sarkozy) reaped twice the political benefits. While he has boosted his international reputation with a resounding diplomatic victory, he also propelled his wife's status to that of humanitarian muse."

The Bulgarian media had nothing but praise for the French presidential couple and Ferrero-Waldner for brokering the medics' return.

"France's first lady Cecilia is definitely the French woman who will remain in Bulgarian history," the Trud daily wrote in a full-page profile of the first lady.

"Ferrero-Waldner, the woman armed with a broad, sincere and disarming smile, took the fate of the medics as her personal cause," a similar profile of the EU official stated.

Leftist daily Sega meanwhile said "Sarkozy gave it his all and won," claiming the deal was an "unprecedented success for the new French president."

Copyright AFP

Subject: French news

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