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French press review 13 March 2013

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The cardinals are still in their conclave. Shimon Peres is at the European parliament. What's cooking in French abattoirs? Is François Hollande engaged in class war? And will Renault's new deal save jobs?


Le Monde's internet edition confirms that we still don't have a new pope.

"Black smoke at the end of the conclave's first day," reads the headline accompanying an article emphasising that this is a very open race for the top job in the Catholic Church. It's not surprising that yesterday's first round failed to produce a single candidate with the support of two-thirds of his colleagues.

According to most analysts, the initial rounds of voting will mainly serve to narrow the field down to the three or four serious contenders who can each mobilise between 30 and 40 votes and also establish the fault lines between the groups of cardinals.

Dossier: Gaza 2009

Le Monde's print edition has Israel's Shimon Peres calling on the world to save Syria and on Europe to end its alleged tacit support for Hezbollah.

The Israeli president addressed the European Parliament on Tuesday and called for an Arab League force to intervene in Syria.

It was the first speech to the assembly by an Israeli head of state in almost three decades. Peres said that to end the Syrian violence, "the United Nations should support the Arab League to build an Arab force in blue helmets".

He went on to say that the free world could not stand by as a massacre is carried out by  Syrian President Bahhsar al-Assad against his own people.

The Nobel peace laureate singled out Iran as the world's most dangerous enemy.

"The greatest danger to peace in the world is the present Iranian regime," he said, attacking Tehran not only for its efforts to build a nuclear weapon but also for violating human rights by hanging people and discriminating against women.

He also slammed Iran for supporting global terrorism, notably via "its main proxy", Hezbollah, blaming the group for dividing Lebanon, supporting Assad and
sowing terror across the world.

Dossier: Eurozone in crisis

The EU is already under pressure from Israel and the United States to put Hezbollah on a terrorist blacklist and Peres added his voice to those calls.

The Israeli leader, about to wind up an eight-day European tour taking in EU institutions as well as France, received a standing ovation from the 754-member parliament.

The main story in Libération is appetisingly headlined "Cooking in the abattoir" and looks at the impact of the recent horsemeat scandal, which has led to a sort of mini-crisis in certain sectors of the French food sector as consumers stop buying a huge range of frozen, prepared meals.

The paper's editorial expresses astonishment at the fact that it has taken the horsemeat problem to wake us up to the fact that most ready-made meat dishes are already at the outer limit of food hygiene, indeed, of suitability for human consumption. 

Detailing the contents of some prepared meals as "fat, bone and waste", the editorial points to the negative health implications of such a diet. You could translate the editorial's uncompromising headline as "Slop".

Right-wing Le Figaro is delighted to report that the charm offensive by French President François Hollande hasn't worked. They don't say how they know, but the fellahs at Le Figaro are sure that Hollande's two-day meet-and-greet in Dijon didn't do anything to slow the French leader's headlong plummet in the popularity ratings.

Le Figaro's editorial, once again, laments Hollande's incessant attacks on the innocent rich, those who would drive the French economy forward if they weren't fearfully cowering in fiscal exile, struggling to protect their few remaining billiions from the rabid claws of the Socialist monster.

Le Figaro says Hollande continues to use the old-fashioned terminology of the class war, pitting bosses and owners against the working class, without realising that he's out of date and that the interests of all "sides" actually converge.

On a slightly more promising note, business daily Les Echos salutes the signing (to take place later today) between bosses and some unions at Renault of a deal which will reduce staff numbers by 15 per cent, freeze salaries and increase the basic working week to 35 hours.

In return, Renault has promised not to close any French production site between now and 2016. The industrial equivalent of "peace in our time" perhaps? Let's hope not, since the head of Renault, Carlos Ghosn, says there is no alternative.