Cameron and Sarkozy on walkabout in Libya. The French press focuses on a historic moment for the European leaders amid reflections it could be too early for a victory lap. Sarkozy's media win, meanwhile, is the Socialists' loss. Their prime-time TV debate got a lot less coverage and was largely panned. That's the focus for this look at the French papers, Friday September 16th 2011.
President Nicolas Sarkozy’s trip with British Prime Minister David Cameron to Libya grabs the headlines. Le Figaro leads: “Sarkozy and Cameron” welcomed as liberators. It remarks: "who would have imagined a year ago that Nicolas Sarkozy would be going to Benghazi as a hero". The paper wonders though how long the pro-French mood will last. Le Figaro editorial writer Pierre Rousselin says Sarkozy adopted the tone of former French President Charles de Gaulle when he said France would support “all Arab peoples wanting to throw off their chains”. But again the question arises: is this too soon? Is Sarkozy just a hero for a day? Can he be the real initiator of cross-Mediterranean ties in the long-term? The paper’s correspondent in Benghazi ,Renaud Girard, quotes a resident saying: “We owe our freedom to Sarkozy”. Girard concludes that Libya will split along secular and Islamist lines and, at a certain point, Paris will have to choose between one or the other and “that is when the real problems will begin”.
Left-wing daily Libération says Nicolas Sarkozy walked around just as if he was at home: "Sarkozy parade en Libye comme chez lui". That headline is somewhat damning in tone but the rest of its coverage is fairly tame in terms of criticism of the French president. The paper says he was determined to be the first head of state in Tripoli since Gaddafi fled. Its quote of choice, along with other papers, is: “People of Libya you have shown your courage and you must now show another kind of courage, the courage of forgiveness and reconciliation.”
The paper also looks at the plight of French hostages held in neighbouring Niger. Four out of five are still being held exactly a year after being taken captive. One hostage was released in February. They are being held by AQIM, al Qaeda in the Islamic Mahgreb.
The Socialist Primary TV debates were judged lacklustre and boring in much of the press. The six candidates held back from savaging each other. Libération says viewers had to wait till 10.50 pm before Martine Aubry changed tone, targetting François Hollande on employment policy. Le Parisien-Aujourd’hui-en-France says it was “très, trés sage": “very, very tame”. And the paper wonders whether it was too timid and quotes one Socialist Party member saying the discussion hadn’t made her change her mind about who to choose.