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French press review 2 February 2016


As the international coalition meets in Rome to decide on the wisdom of opening a new front against Islamic State in Libya, several papers devote prime space to a plan which is likely to remain theoretical until a stable government emerges in the north African state. And there's more on the Zika virus.


In one guise or another, the many-headed monster that is Islamic State dominates this morning's French papers.

Both centrist Le Monde and right-wing Le Figaro give front-page space to the latest initiative by the international coalition, due to meet later today in Rome, with a view to extending the battle zone to include Libya. It's a risky undertaking, not least since the confused political situation in that north African country, with two governments and dozens of freelance militia on the loose, is probably more favourable to terrorism than to diplomacy.

Click here for our coverage of Turkey election 2015

Communist L'Humanité gives pride of place to Nasrin Abdallah, the commander in chief of women fighters in Kurdistan. For her, the problem is even more complicated, since many Kurds feel they are fighting not only the terrorists of Islamic State but also the hardliners in the Turkish government of Tayyip Recep Erdogan.

She notes with dismay that there is no Kurdish delegation at the Syrian peace talks currently taking place in Geneva, Switzerland.

Against the background of speculation that Nigeria and Angola may be on the verge of devaluing their currencies because of strains caused by the low price of crude oil on world markets, Le Monde attempts to sketch the new map of global petrol power.

What is clear is that the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries (Opec) has lost an enormous amount of revenue and political clout over the past two years. Since June 2014 the price of a barrel of crude has collapsed by 75 per cent, leading to massive reductions in investments in exploration and exploitation of oil fields.

The United States is now the market leader, even if the oil monarchies of the Persian Gulf are keeping their heads above water thanks to huge cash reserves. That leaves the poorer producing nations, like Nigeria and Angola, but also Algeria, Venezuela, Iraq and Iran, bearing the brunt of the recession.

World petrol consumption is sharply down, mainly because the Chinese economy is in the doldrums, and there's a huge amount of crude oil sloshing around in storage tanks.

Le Monde says oil at 30 dollars a barrel is obviously a welcome boost to Western economies struggling to get moving in the right direction again but there is an inherent danger. The current phase won't last forever, simply because the oil reserves won't either, and we'll end up paying, sooner or later, for the slow-down in investment and exploration.

The only certainty, according to Le Monde, is that the era of economic turmoil based on the fluctuating price of crude is not, by a long shot, a thing of the past. Expect further surprises.

Catholic La Croix looks at how the World Health Organisation plans to lead the global struggle against the Zika virus, currently epidemic in South America.

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Since the virus can lead to irreversible brain damage for unborn children whose mothers are infected, there are obviously huge medical, political and ethical questions to be resolved. Talk of differing child-bearing or of terminating high-risk pregnancies raises the red rags of contraception and abortion to the Catholic bull. But, as La Croix reasonably points out, the church also has a huge role to play in public health education programmes, especially in the poorest and most vulnerable districts.

Le Monde looks back at the resignation of French justice minister Christiane Taubira, ostensibly because of her disagreement with government colleagues on the advisability of changing the constitution to make it possible to deprive convicted terrorists with double citizenship of their French nationality.

Taubira thinks it's a bad idea to create two levels of citizenship and a bad sign if a state can't deal with its own people, being forced to consign those it rejects to some legal limbo, what the former minister calls "a dumping ground for undesirables".

She says we have to refuse to give in intellectually to those who would intimidate us, not allow the cries of the thought tyrants to freeze our spirits. Let us, she says, remembering the 17th century French philosopher Réné Descartes, stay on the side of Reason.

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