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Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif unexpectedly flies back to G7 to break diplomatic deadlock

French press review 1 April 2013


France is in Easter holiday mode, but making news: the new Pope's first Easter Mass; reflections on the war in Iraq, and the end of the "Winter Truce" for non-paying renters in France.

Le Figaro gives pride of place to the new Roman Catholic leader, Pope Francis, who celebrated his first Easter Mass yesterday before an enthusiastic crowd in Rome. The right-wing paper says the new man at the helm continues to surf on an enormous wave of goodwill, but he still has to announce his first decisions.

He speaks simply, avoids any formal distance betwen hilmself and the faithful, loves kissing babies, a sort of John Paul ll, mark ll if you like. But the suspicion, scepticism and disaffection provoked by the Catholic Church have not vanished.

He has already shown himself courageous and out-spoken as archbishop of Buenos Aires. Argentinian President Cristina Kirchner could tell us a thing or two about the man's smiling abrasiveness.

Dossier: War in Mali

He will, says Le Figaro, need to show the same determination in dealing with the major players on the world stage, as well as in his efforts to put manners on the invisible men who run the roman curia, the Catholic Church's own senior management.

Elsewhere in Le Figaro, a look back at Iraq, ten years after the US-led invasion which saw the end of Saddam Hussein but has left the country practically ungovernable, ruined by almost daily terror attacks, and has destabilised the whole region to the advantage of, the paper says, Iran.

The war has been described as "possibly the worst strategic error in US history". 4,500 young Americans lost their lives, 30,000 others were injured. The psychological aftermath continues to cause depression and suicide, ruin families, destabilise entire communities. No one will ever bother to count the number of innocent Iraqis who died.

The direct costs alone amounted to an estimated 2,000 billion dollars.

That expenditure, and the political reticence to get involved in another debacle, has since left the United States on the sidelines in other, potentially more dangerous, situations. Think of Syria, or Libya, or Mali, for example.

Other front page stories concern the end of the winter truce, which protects French renters from being thrown out in the cold for not paying the rent, but does nothing to protect the out-of-pocket property owners. That truce ends today, and the government would like to put a rent guarantee scheme in place. Trouble is, such a scheme would cost a minimum of 500 million euros, and nobody is prepared to pay.

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