Most of the French papers lead on the Pope's visit to Madrid. Also in the news are the attacks near the Israeli resort of Eilat and a former French Prime Minister's involvement with efforts to broker the Libyan conflict. Barack Obama eating ice cream in the Midwest gets a mention too. Those stories, and the champagne harvest, make up today's look at the French press, Friday August 19th, 2011.
Pope Benedict 16th is dominating most of France’s front pages. The Supreme Pontiff is on a four-day visit to Madrid for events marking the Catholic Church’s World Youth Day. Le Figaro has a photo of him in his Popemobile, amid crowds in rapture.
Its other main headline is “Terrorist attacks in Israel”. Gunmen crossed from the Egyptian desert and killed eight people near the southern Israeli resort town of Eilat. It reports that Israel is on alert after three separate attacks and there are concerns about security in Egypt’s Sinai Desert which, Le Figaro says, has become less secure since Mubarak’s fall.
Rue89 Online carries the headline: "The Egyptian border is Israel’s new frontline". It says that several armed groups have made a base there and points out the tension comes as a key date approaches: the Palestinians will announce a bid for UN membership on 20th September.
The former French Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin, Nicolas Sarkozy’s arch-rival in the right wing in France, is apparently involved with talks on Libya. Le Figaro says he has met Gaddafi envoys at the Tunisian resort of Djerba and is doing so to “avoid a bloodbath in Tripoli”. He says he was asked to take part because he knows the region well. The Elysée denies that it made the request. Le Figaro was picking up on a story covered by Le Parisien-Aujourd’hui-en-France on Thursday called « Dominique de Villepin’s mysterious diplomatic trips ». It says that Villepin has made several trips to the region.
That paper is leading on the Pope’s visit to Madrid, with the headline “between fervour and tension”. It reports the Pope’s arrival followed clashes between pilgrims and anti-World Youth Day pro-secular activists. It says that though Spain has been strongly Catholic for centuries, it is less so now. The paper argues the clashes are part of the general climate of discontent in Spain. This is the country of "Los Indignados" - the Indignant Ones. Protests have taken place in many towns and cities over austrerity measures. One of the 'Indignados', Juan Lopez, tells the paper that he is not against the Pope’s visit as such but opposes one penny of public finances going to organisng his welcome. He says any such money should go to the people of Somalia.
Libération is leading on the United States and Barack Obama’s bus trek in the Midwest aimed at bumping up his support. The front page photo shows Obama licking ice cream. Libération says that he is trying to pitch himself as the man of consensus after the nasty partisan squabbling to carve out a deal on the US debt crisis. Its editorial argues that he has disappointed over the economy and notes his poll rating is down to 40 per cent, according to Gallup. However, Libération concludes, that we must not rule Obama out of the race for the White House just yet. His approach of seeing voters as intelligent adults has “more or less done him well”, it says.
And back to Le Parisien-Aujourd’hui-en-France which reports that it’s going to be a great year for bubbly as the champagne harvest begins today. The harvest is exceptionally early this year because of the unusually hot and dry Spring. There's just the question of whether we'll be able to afford a bottle with all the financial doom and gloom around.