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French press review 30 July 2011

The Air France Paris-Rio crash and President Nicolas Sarkozy’s anti-National Front strategy receive wide coverage in Saturday’s French papers.


Flight AF447 that crashed en route from Rio de Janeiro to Paris in 2008 returned to the front pages of the papers after the French Aviation Authority, BEA, published its third report on the disaster.

The BEA blamed the pilots for the tragedy over the Atlantic in 2009 in which 228 people were killed.

“Panic on board”, headlines Libération. The newspaper reports claims by the investigators that the pilots were not trained to handle the jet when its speed sensors froze and its autopilot system failed in rough weather.

Libé expresses shock that the captain of the flight left the cockpit to rest, leaving two co-pilots "without clear operational instructions".

Aujourd’hui en France/Le Parisien narrates the dramatic 13 key minutes that preceded the crash, findings that are tantamount to an official attribution of blame on the pilots’ mastery of their aircraft, according to the paper. Air France rejects the claims, arguing that the pilots showed professionalism and stayed committed until the end.

Le Parisien says however that economic stakes seem to be taking precedence over the search for the truth, as Air France and Airbus face a barrage of manslaughter cases filed by the victims’ families.

Le Monde examines President Nicolas Sarkozy’s new strategy to contain the political threat posed by the far-right Front National. It is one year since Sarkozy unveiled a hardline security policy, which sparked the mass expulsion of Romas from France, in the southern city of Grenoble.

The speech aimed to win back disappointed members of his electorate charmed by the populist speeches of Front National leader Marine Le Pen.

It was Sarkozy’s worst fiasco remembers Le Monde and he has since softened his security posture. He has since left the job in the hand of overzealous cronies like Claude Guéant , the interior minister, notes the paper.

According to Le Monde, Guéant’s crusade against illegal immigration and migrant workers, especially his recent suggestion that the French feel like strangers in their own country, have gone down well with Sarkozy’s conservative power base.

Another of Sarkozy’s aides Eric Ciotti is sponsoring a bill seeking the establishment of military service for under-aged delinquents. Ciotti, the ruling party’s secretary in charge of security matters. He belongs to the group of 40 MPs, the so-called Droite Populaire on the radical right of the ruling UMP, that is causing the party all sort of problems.

Le Monde says their populist ideas, such as ridding foreign-born criminals of their French nationality or their campaign against French citizens of foreign origin, have failed to make any impact on French opinion. Aujourd’hui en France/Le Parisien argues that Eric Ciotti’s proposal has left public opinion in France divided and sent critics wondering whether their next step isn’t the conscription of all young people into the military.


Le Monde also examines the assassination of Libyan rebel commander Abdel Fatah Yunis which has weakened the National Transitional Council. The paper describes General Yunis as the man who held the various factions of the armed rebellion together.

He was previoulsy the country's interior minister, an old companion of Moamer Kadhafi and from the Obeida tribe, one of the most powerful in the country. Le Monde says his killing in Benghazi on Thursday, sparked angry reactions in the rebel lair from armed factions loyal to him.

The paper warns that his death leaves the National Transitional Council in a “state of confusion” and “disturbing fragility”. Le Monde points to the grave implications the killing could have especially on French policy and military operations in Libya.

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