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IN THE PRESS

An overview of the stories making the French and international newspaper headlines. From Monday to Friday live at 7.20 am and 9.20 am Paris time.

Latest update : 2011-10-21

'End of a tyrant'

Muammar Gaddafi's death dominates all the papers, with reaction centring on the brutality of his last hours and whether - as with the Ceausescus in Romania and Saddam Hussein in Iraq - this will cast a shadow. That's the focus for this review of the French press, 21st October 2011.

France Soir leads: “Ils ont eu sa peau”, which translates as “they got him”, alongside a photo of Muammar Gaddafi’s bloodied head. Much of the press coverage in France and elsewhere is explicit, even stomach-churning.

Libération has the same photo but in a reduced format, perhaps in a bid to take a step back a little. Its headline is: “End of a tyrant”. The paper points out that the National Transitional Council was offering a 1.7 million dollar ransom as long as Gaddafi was captured alive, so the manner of his death was not inevitable.

Libération’s editorial writer François Sargent says, however, that it could cast a shadow in Libya, much as the demise of the Ceausescus in Romania and Saddam Hussein in Iraq has done. Sargent says that while he didn’t expect a transition in Libya to be “a vote in Switzerland”, he finds the images of Gaddafi’s death worrying. He argues the NTC will “have to explain the circumstances of Gaddafi’s execution if it wants to remain credible”.

The free paper 20 minutes puts the people of Libya on its front page. It shows crowds in Tripoli celebrating. The headline there is “La Délivrance”: deliverance, merciful relief.

Le Parisien-Aujourd’hui-en-France has an interview with a son of a victim of the bomb attack on flight UTA 772. The attack was allegedly orchestrated by the Libyan leader. Martial Chavet tells the paper that “you can never get over the horror of the cowardice of a terrorist attack”. The flight from Congo to Paris was targeted in September 1989 and Chavet says he has waited for Gaddafi’s demise throughout these 22 years. He also says that, at the time of his father’s death, there was no psychological support available for victims, making the loss all the more difficult to bear.

Le Monde is asking a question that comes up everywhere: what next for Libya? It says there will be obstacles in the transition process because of tensions within the National Transitional Council, and expects a rise in Islamic militancy which was long kept at bay by Gaddafi.

Libération says that Paris, London and Washington can be satisfied with an endgame that results in no trial. However, questions arise about the extent of  the use of force in the Libya mission. It quotes a legal expert for Doctors Without Borders, Françoise Bourget, who says the concept of a dictator is not recognized in international law. “Nothing”, she says, “makes a head of state a legitimate target”. The international community was there to protect civilians, so how then would an attack on a military convoy fleeing a conflict zone fall within that remit?

And La Croix says that another fight (un autre combat”) is now beginning. It argues the “war is not won”, and that “everything remains to be done”, with one of the tasks being to ensure that Gaddafi is not seen as a martyr to Western intervention.

By Nicholas RUSHWORTH

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