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France

French press review 21 January 2013

media

Mali, Algeria and 50 years of the Franco-German partnership all feature in today's French papers...

The main headline in left-leaning Libération reads: "Mali's alarming army". Divided, ill-equipped, without any real combat experience, the Malian army is still marked by a series of defeats at the hands of their northern opponents. The question is, where does that level of demoralisation and incompetence leave the French, supposed to be "supporting" an organisation that clearly needs far more than support.

Al-Shebab - who are they?

Le Monde looks at the political implications of the Mali conflict in a piece headlined "Conservatives attack Hollande".

Despite broad initial support for the French president's military intervention, the right wing UMP has now decided that, after all, French isolation (the fact that nobody else wants to get their boots dirty) is proof that the whole project was badly prepared.

The UMP is particularly critical of the fact that there was insufficient political dialogue. They probably mean not enough preliminary blah-blah with the European partners, which would have slowed things down nicely and given the bad guys more than enough time to reach the centre of Bamako. The real problem, recognised across the political spectrum, is to envisage how the situation is going to evolve, as a highly mobile, well-armed enemy takes advantage of the desert terrain and refuses to engage in a classic confrontation.

Right wing Le Figaro looks ahead to this week's Franco-German summit in Berlin. Figaro thinks the wheels have come off the Merkel-Hollande tandem, and that not everyone is pedalling at the same speed or even steering in the same direction.

Dossier: Eurozone in crisis

Expect disagreement on just about everything . . . Europe, the banks, money, social democracy, Mali . . . followed by a diplomatic final communiqué and a distant hug involving the two smiling leaders. That's how the neighbours have been doing things since Adenaur and De Gaulle signed the so-called reconciliation treaty fifty years ago.

Communist l'Humanité looks back to a different anniversary, François Hollande's speech to socialist party faithful 12 months ago at which he promised to take on the world of high finance, and put manners on the bad-guy bankers. He hasn't, says L'Huma, and it's not just the local fat cats who got off the hook. Hollande has also failed to re-orient Europe's financial misfortunes.

One of the weekend editorials in Le Monde considers the tragic hostage-taking and subsequent military action at the Algerian gas facility known as In Amenas.

The article, written before the extent of the carnage began to become evident, warns that there are least two errors to be avoided in analysing the tragic events in the east Algerian desert.

In the first place, says the centrist daily, there is no direct link between the French military intervention in Mali and the hostage-taking in Algeria. The activists responsible for the In Amenas attack came from Libya, not Mali, and are lead by an Algerian, Mokhtar Belmokhtar. The operation was not suddenly planned and put in motion in the 48 hours following the first French air raids in the Malian sahel.

THE BATTLE FOR LIBYA

In the second place, it is unwise to explain the recent explosion of jihadist activity across the sahel as the direct consequence of the collapse of the Kadhafi regime in Libya. Certainly many of the weapons currently in use by various regional armed groups came from the Libyan dictator's bunkers. But the roots of the holy war go back at least as far as the Algerian civil war in the '90s.

And now the region is ravaged by various forms of religious fanaticism, banditry, drug-trafficking, nationalism and opportunistic violence. The security of the entire sub-Saharan region is deeply threatened.

That on its own, says Le Monde, would be a good reason for her European partners not to leave France alone on the front line.

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