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French press review 9 September 2013


If I tell you that Syria, taxation and retirement are the stories making the French front pages this morning, you'll understand that the news is none too cheerful.

Tokyo did give us something to cheer about, with a clever bit of financial management ensuring that the Japanese capital has been chosen as the host city for the Olympic Games in 2020. A lot of analysts suggested that the nuclear disaster at Fukushima might play against Japanese hopes, but economic stability and a special billion dollar government savings scheme swung it for Tokyo against Istanbul and Madrid.

The other good news on the Olympic front, or back if you like, is that wrestling has been reinstated as a recognised competition sport, having earlier been dropped in favour of squash and baseball.

On France 24

On Syria, Le Monde gives its main headline to the French and US presidents, suggesting that Obama and Hollande are facing a rising tide of public opinion against any form of military intervention against Bashar al-Assad.

Sixty-two percent of Americans, 64 percent of the French and three quarters of Europeans are against getting involved.

The front page of Catholic La Croix looks at intense diplomatic pressure from Washington in an effort to create a wider support base for attacks.

Congress is expected to vote on the question by the end of this week, with the outcome anything but a foregone conclusion, and Barack Obama's political life on the line.

The House of Representatives has a Republican majority, with The New York Times newspaper counting 218 congressmen either "totally opposed" or "opposed" to air strikes. The majority required is 217 votes.

In the Senate, Obama's Democrats outnumber their Republican opponents, and there are plenty of war-hungry hawks on the Republican side who will vote for a fight, whatever the issue. But each of these politicians is under pressure from his or her own electorate, and will not have a free hand against public opinion when the time comes to cast a vote.

Le Monde's front page editorial says Obama is paying the political price of the Iraq fiasco . . in other words, that American lack of enthusiasm for another war is the direct result of disenchantment left over from the Bush-era attack on Baghdad, which dislodged a tyrant on false evidence but failed to boost either local or regional peace.

Le Figaro regrets the fact that the debate has pushed the real issue - can the world stand by while a regime uses nerve gas against its own citizens? - into second place behind questions of political accountability. That's a dangerous message to send to Syria, to Hezbollah, to Teheran. If Assad gets away with gas, why should Iran not get away with building a nuclear weapon? Against that background, how long will Israel stay calm in the face of US feebleness?

Income tax makes the front pages of both tabloid Aujourd'hui en France and business daily Les Echos.

French tax payers are getting their bills for last year at the moment, and most of them are getting nasty shocks with increases over the last 12 months ranging from just over 100 euros to 1,300 euros.

And, warns the front page of Les Echos, things won't get any better next year either.

Finally, on the eve of a day of action called by several unions tomorrow, communist L'Humanité says 81 percent of the French are worried about proposed reforms of pensions and retirement regimes, and seven out of ten feel that government policy is heading in the wrong direction.

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