French press review 2 September 2011

Friday’s French papers are dominated by the Libyan conference in Paris.


60 countries gather in Paris to rebuild Libya”, headlines Le Figaro. The rightwing newspaper notes that while the military operations are not yet over, some actors are already accusing France of taking advantage of its role in the conflict by seeking the lion’s share of reconstruction contracts.

La Tribune newspaper says the oil-rich country represents a juicy market which French, Italian and German companies are already fighting over.

La République des Pyrénées comments that the air of victory among the allies and the triumph of the rebels on the ground has released a strong whiff of oil and petrol.

The paper quotes an article in Libération, asserting that the rebels have attributed one third of the contracts to France, with Britain, Italy and the United States having to share the rest among them.

The big losers, it says, are Russia which only recognised the NTC at the last minute and China, which, the paper claims, is always in the frontline to defend established dictatorships.


Paris-Normandie holds that while cynics will continue to see Libya’s oil resources as the real motives of the war, France is right in ensure that countries which played no role in liberating the country should have no share of the oil and reconstruction contracts.

Le Journal de la Haute-Marne agrees and argues that it is common practice in history that liberators are paid back through reconstruction contracts.

It draws examples from the US liberation of Kuwait from Saddam Hussain’s stranglehold. The regional newspaper says China and Russia swallowed their vetoes against the French-sponsored Libyan resolution, not because of some grand diplomatic design but but because of their “large economic appetite”. “Business as usual”.

La Croix says all is not about the scramble for Libya. It underlines that, by fanning the winds of popular revolt in Benghazi, France has hooked up with the powerful movement sweeping through the Arab world, inspiring democracy and freedom through the region.

According to the Catholic newspaper, the use of force must be followed by a less spectacular job, that of facilitating the advent of democratic rule, economic recovery and job creation.

La Croix says such policies require substantial resources and a large consensus by allies, which is why France must refrain from unilateral policies which are likely to undermine its standing within the European Union and the United Nations.

L'Est Républicain comments that while Libya has turned a new page, huge uncertainties remain.

The “tyrant of Tripoli” remains at large and the regional newspaper says the territorial integrity of the tribal-based country is problematic due to the number of arms circulating in unreliable hands, notwithstanding lingering questions about the real face of the country’s new leaders.

And “what an appetite for Libya’s oil cake and reconstruction contracts!” exclaims The Republican. The newspaper warns the allies to copy from the Iraqi example and stop behaving as if their support for the democratic uprising was motivated by greedy designs.

It should be up to Libya’s new leaders, the paper argues, to decide the levels of compensation, not the Nato countries that bombed Kadhafi out of power.

La Voix du Nord doubts if the National Transitional Council can, on its own, patch together the complex mix of rebels, civil society dignitaries and tribal chiefs.

It urges France and Western countries to accompany the peacebuilding efforts of the NTC, not behave like they did in Irak and Afghanistan.

Some papers see the French diplomatic trumph on Libya as a boon to President Nicolas Sarkozy’s re-election prospects.

Ouest-France says he intends to delay the launch of his re-election campaign until the very last minute, in order exhaust the gains of the successful Libyan campaign.

The newspaper however warns that the absence of the captain from the political arena could complicate the work of the ruling UMP party, as it faces a blistering attack by the opposition on what they deem to be the president’s flip-flopping economic policies.

Le Monde examines new allegations of graft brought against President Sarkozy in a new book that resuscitates the Bettencourt affair.

Le Monde says the secret services spied on a newspaper investigating allegations that the French president was seen receiving an envelope from billionaire Bettencourt prior to his election as president in 2007.

Le Monde says counter-intelligence agents obtained confidential information from a journalist that helped identify his sources in the Bettencourt affair.

The use of state services to investigate a private affair is illegal and the paper states that the operation was a blatant violation of the law on the protection of news sources.

Left-leaning Libération also takes up the scandal in a dossier entitled « state liars ». The newspaper says within 24 hours a prosecutor handling the Bettencourt affair declared that she was being subjected to pressure by her hierarchy.

Libération says it is frightening to learn that the woman who reportedly saw Sarkozy receiving money from Bettencourt fears for her life after receiving death threats.

Libération says the “boat is leaking from all directions”.

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