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Cablegate: Weekly Media Wrap-Up: Airbus Maneuvering; Iraq War--Taking

VZCZCXRO1259
RR RUEHIK RUEHYG
DE RUEHFR #0917/01 0681432
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 091432Z MAR 07
FM AMEMBASSY PARIS
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 5493
INFO RUEHZG/NATO EU COLLECTIVE
RUEHMRE/AMCONSUL MARSEILLE 1576
RUEHSR/AMCONSUL STRASBOURG 0355

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 03 PARIS 000917

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

DEPT FOR EUR/PPD, EUR/WE, INR, R

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: OPRC PREL KPAO FR
SUBJECT: WEEKLY MEDIA WRAP-UP: AIRBUS MANEUVERING; IRAQ WAR--TAKING
CARE OF SOLDIERS, THE LIBBY VERDICT, BAGHDAD CONFERENCE; PRESIDENT
BUSH'S TRIP TO LATIN AMERICA. MARCH 9, 2007.


PARIS 00000917 001.2 OF 003


Sensitive but unclassified. Please protect accordingly.

-------
SUMMARY
-------

1. (SBU) Domestic issues dominated headlines this week, focused on
Airbus's plans to restructure, anticipated job cuts and the
presidential candidates' support for the ailing company. "Airbus
caught in campaign turbulence" and "Airbus trapped in the campaign"
were the headlines of economic daily Les Echos and right-of-center
Le Figaro on March 5. In U.S.-related news on March 5,
right-of-center Le Figaro's New York correspondent penned an article
on conditions at Walter Reed and the commission appointed by
President Bush to look into the situation. Left-of-center Le
Monde's front page noted that Defense Secretary Gates also is
denouncing the conditions at Walter Reed. State-run France 2's
morning news program on March 7, as well as the front page of
right-of-center Le Figaro, reported the guilty verdict in the
perjury case against Lewis "Scooter" Libby. International stories
included the upcoming conference in Baghdad, missile defense and
President Bush's trip to Latin America. End Summary.

------
AIRBUS
------

2. (SBU) On March 5, in regional Le Republicain Lorrain, Pierre
Frehel wrote that "The crisis at Airbus has unleashed France's old
tendencies of nationalism and protectionism." In regional La
Liberte de l'Est, Gerard Noel suggested that "they must be getting a
good laugh at Boeing. Silly Europeans, incapable of rising above
their own national chauvinism... and plunging one of their icons,
Airbus, into the abyss... A depressing state of affairs for the
countries that had once been reputed to be the motors of the EU."

3. (SBU) On March 6, right-of-center Le Figaro's headline noted that
"the Right and Left are butting heads on the government's role" in
trying to help Airbus out of its current crisis, with two full pages
of coverage, including articles on Socialist candidate Segolene
Royal's meeting with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, as well as
Prime Minister Villepin's comments that "the state must play its
role." (Note: UMP candidate Sarkozy also subsequently came out in
favor of an increased national stake in the company. End Note.)
The daily carried an investigation of the German regional issues at
stake, and an article covering the role of the unions in the current
disagreements. Economic daily Les Echos' article on "Airbus:
Sarkozy and Villepin in Favor of an Increase in Capital" noted that
the "Airbus 'Power 8' plan was announced in the middle of the
election campaign...and you can tell."

4. (SBU) The March 7 editorial in right-of-center Le Figaro by
Stephanie Marchand said that "France is slowing Germany down... The
Franco-German couple is doing poorly. And the painful restructuring
of Airbus serves to highlight this even more... In terms of
economic policy, it is as if the countries on either side of the
Rhine are not living in this century."

5. (SBU) Left-of-center Le Monde on March 8 featured an interview
with EADS co-president Louis Gallois. Gallois confirmed that "no
part of the A350 will be contracted outside of France as certain
rumors would have had one believe... It is the delays in the A380
that led to the Power 8 Plan. But one of the real problems that the
company faces is coping with the weak dollar (which makes Airbus
uncompetitive on the market). When the dollar drops 10 cents it
costs the company one billion euros."

----------------------------------------
CONDITIONS AT WALTER REED, LIBBY VERDICT
----------------------------------------

6. (SBU) Left-wing Liberation's Washington correspondent Philippe
Grangereau on March 5 wrote: "When George W. Bush is filmed at
Walter Reed hospital shaking hands with wounded soldiers, it is
always in the ultra-modern wing set aside for amputees. The rest of
Walter Reed, which is for the most part off-limits to journalists,
is infested with mice, cockroaches and mildew... There a great
number of soldiers languish for months, sometimes years." For
left-of-center Le Monde on March 5, Defense Secretary Robert Gates
is imposing "his method... but the Walter Reed story is only just
beginning" according to correspondent Corine Lesnes.

7. (SBU) On March 7, Washington correspondent for right-of-center Le
Figaro, Philippe Gelie, noted about the Libby verdict that "for VP
Cheney's former right-hand man, the blow is a hard one... and leaves
a dark cloud hanging over the VP and the Bush Administration as well

PARIS 00000917 002.2 OF 003


as adding to the fiasco that is the American intervention in Iraq."
Left-wing Liberation's Washington correspondent Philippe Grangereau
wrote March 8 on the "Vices of the Vice President." "The White
House's lies going into Iraq... are catching up to the
highest-ranking officials in the Bush Administration. In
particular, to Dick Cheney, who is strongly suspected of having
orchestrated the whole affair... The White House has not said if it
intends to grant a presidential pardon to Lewis Libby at the end of
the president's term in office. The trial of a high-level official
is unprecedented since the Iran-Contra scandal in the 1980s and has
shed light on the vindictive practices of Dick Cheney, who went so
far as to declassify certain reports or leak information to the
press in order to embarrass his political opponents. Rarely has a
vice president had so much power in the history of the U.S. His
office is a sort of citadel of secrecy with a staff far larger than
any of his predecessors.'" Agnes Rotivel, in Catholic La Croix
(March 8), suggested that "It became clear over the course of the
trial that Lewis Libby was simply the scapegoat used to protect
those who are truly guilty."

------------------
BAGHDAD CONFERENCE
------------------

8. (SBU) Karine Lajon in Sunday newspaper Le Journal du Dimanche
(March 4) commented on the Baghdad Conference, saying "The idea
comes from Baghdad, but France likes it. Next Saturday, an
international conference will take place in the Iraqi capital...
The official aim of this meeting is to move the political process
forward... The unofficial purpose is to break the ice between the
U.S., Iran and Syria... France is seeing this as a softening of the
American position... Paris will be represented by the French
Ambassador to Iraq... For Syria and Iran, this conference provides
them with an opportunity to position themselves as essential
regional powers." On March 7, left-of-center Le Monde's Daniel
Vernet noted that the "new diplomatic front opened by the U.S. took
everyone by surprise... It is true that George Bush had already
agreed to compromise with North Korea in spite of the fact that,
like Iran, it is part of the "Axis of Evil." Apparently the
American president has decided to implement some of the
recommendations of the Baker-Hamilton Report."

--------------
MISSILE SHIELD
--------------

9. (SBU) March 7, left-of-center Le Monde's Nathalie Nougayrede
wrote that "the American anti-missile shield plans have divided
Europeans... France, for its part, is keeping a low profile while
Germany has expressed its marked reticence... Paris is underscoring
that the project is strictly American and a bilateral matter between
the U.S. and the various countries that have been approached as
candidates for new bases.... France's position is significantly
different from 1999, when Jacques Chirac clearly stated his
opposition to the anti-missile defense project... Moreover, the
French consider that Russia received fair warning by the U.S. about
the American missile defense project."

-------------------------------
PRESIDENT BUSH IN LATIN AMERICA
-------------------------------

10. (SBU) The editorial by Stephane Marchand in right-of-center Le
Figaro (March 8) notes that "As far as energy is concerned, the U.S.
is like every other country, dependent and vulnerable. This frailty
will be especially tangible during President Bush's trip to Latin
America ... The American president is arriving in a region that has
been awash in virulent anti-Americanism for years... During the
course of the last six years during which the region had the
impression that it had been forgotten by the Bush Administration
that was entirely turned towards the war on terrorism, Chavez's
campaign against the U.S. has taken on proportions that are
reminiscent of Fidel Castro's Cuba... with the added leverage of the
petro-dollars that give him, if not a position in the world, at
least an audience... The situation is worrisome but George W. Bush
thinks that he has a plan. For the U.S. to be able to do without
Chavez' oil, it needs to set up the possibility of making ethanol
continent-wide... George Bush and his Brazilian counterpart will
sign an agreement today... The U.S. and Brazil account for 72
percent of the world production of ethanol... If this agreement is
implemented and the Democratic Congress gets on board, the White
House will once again have a foothold in the Latin American energy
arena."

11. (SBU) Washington correspondent for left-of-center Le Monde,
Corine Lesnes, noted (March 8) that "Left by the wayside following

PARIS 00000917 003.2 OF 003


the September 11, 2001 attacks, Latin America is now coming back
onto the front of the stage as far as American foreign policy is
concerned... President Bush is going to present a set of initiatives
that will vie with other regional assistance programs, namely from
countries such as Venezuela or Cuba.

-----------------------------
RADIO FRANCE PERSONNEL CHANGE
-----------------------------

12. (SBU) Left-wing Liberation noted that "France Info's Head Fired
for Lack of Audience," commenting that Michel Polacco was dismissed
March 8. According to most of the press, Michel Polacco is paying
for the continuing drop in audience that France Info has been
suffering for several years. The results of a study, commissioned
by Radio France CEO Jean-Paul Cluzel, to analyze the reasons for
France Info's decline in listenership are expected soon. Polacco,
who is going to serve as an advisor to CEO Cluzel, will be replaced
by Patrick Roger, currently chief editor and presenter for the 8
o'clock morning news on France Inter.
STAPLETON

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