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French press review 30 September 2016

Nicolas Sarkozy is back in the wars on the front pages. He likes that. Are French intellectuals staying silent on the horrors of Aleppo? And will the exporting countries' decision to cut production have any real impact on the price of oil?


Nicolas Sarkozy is back on the front page of Le Monde. The former president is not having a great spell right now. "A nightmare week," is the centrist paper's headline summary.

As Sarko struggles to get himself to the top of the Republicans pile and become the conservative party's presidential candidate, the snapping jaws of French justice are trying to chew his ass off.

First of all, Sarkozy's friend Bernard Squarcini, former top police officer responsible for internal security, is awaiting trial on charges of corruption. He may have used his position to inform Sarkozy about cases before the courts.

Then the book-keeper of Moamer Kadhafi revealed a notebook with details allegedly proving that former Libyan dictator made several secret and illegal contributions to the Sarkozy election fund in 2007.

A number of former allies (Patrick "Brutus" Buisson, Jean-François "Carry the Can" Copé) have published books or given interviews showing the former president in a less than flattering light. And, of course, Sarkozy's still waiting to see if he'll have to stand trial for his alleged part in the illegal financing of his 2012 campaign, using the event organiser Bygmalion to launder funds.

Jacques Chirac used to say that, in French politics, the shit flies in squadrons. Sarkozy insists he will not be discouraged, despite the dirty blows, the outrageous attacks, the calumny, the betrayals. That's quite a squadron!

Aleppo and the deafening silence of French intellectuals

The editorial in Libération looks at the terrible situation in the Syrian city of Aleppo, scene for months now of an endless battle between government forces and anti-Assad rebels.

The left-leaning paper is reminded of other urban war tragedies, in Sarajevo, in Grozny . . . with the bizarre contrast that, this time, Libé finds there has been no outpouring of indignation from French intellectuals, normally in the front line when it comes to criticising governments who deliberately kill their own people.

Libé accepts that it will take a lot more than indignation to save the civilian population of Aleppo. But the big public statements do make war crimes less easy to commit, might eventually lead to the establishment of a no-fly zone, would add to the pressure for an end to the bombing.

Europe has already lost any claim to honour in its failure to confront Russia on the Syrian question, says Libération. To that can now be added the shame of our current silence.

Oil exporters agree to cut production

The 14 members of the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries (Opec) met this week in Algeria to figure out a strategy in the face of falling global prices for crude oil. After much debate, they decided on the obvious answer - they're going to reduce production, by around one million barrels per day, which should push the price of a barrel back up to the 50-dollar mark or thereabouts. Still a long way short of the June 2014 price which was 114 dollars a barrel.

Whatever about the producers, the markets are delighted, the values of oil company shares and the speculative crude oil market both responding to the decision with tons of cash. Praise does not get any more sincere than that.

Le Monde says the Opec decision came as a surprise, mainly because no one expected Saudi Arabia and Iran, at war in Yemen and struggling for regional supremacy, to be able to agree about anything. The two nations fought tooth and nail at the last summit, in Doha, and nothing was agreed. This time, the Saudis rolled over and asked to have their bellies tickled. The fact is that the world's leading oil exporting nation now has debts running to well over 100 billion dollars. The Saudis have been forced to slap pay cuts on their top officials. They badly need the money.

Of course the Algiers agreement is just guff for the moment. Now the members have to agree how to share out the proposed cuts. Nigeria, Iran and Libya are regarded as special cases and won't be asked to make a huge effort. But Opec nations are annoyed that non-member producers like Russia get away without any effort at all.

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