PRESIDENTIAL CRISIS: World Reaction

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The Independent Online
GERMANY

Germany's state railway company ordered the country's railway stations to switch the channels on their televisions away from the broadcast to protect children. At Frankfurt station, televisions showed a nature programme about owls instead of the national network's live broadcast of the Clinton testimony.

The Chancellor, Helmut Kohl, said: "I can only repeat, in my blunt way of saying it, that it makes me throw up." His Foreign Minister, Klaus Kinkel, called the broadcast an "irresponsible excess".

Gerhard Schroder, leader of the opposition Social Democrats, said: "I consider it devastating for American society and politics. There should be limits to the political discussion."

The Hamburger Morgenpost said it would stop publishing reports on the Clinton sex scandal in response to readers' complaints. "Clinton's Pornographic Interrogation - We've Had Enough," today's headline reads.

FRANCE

In Paris the mood in bars, streets and political offices was one of disbelief. "This is the Lewinsky soap opera now adapted for television," said Frederique Bredin, national secretary of France's governing Socialist Party.

She said the real victim of the affair was American democracy and described the special prosecutor, Kenneth Starr, as an "unsavoury figure, obsessed with sex".

ITALY

The Prime Minister, Romano Prodi, praised a "calm" President Clinton, "quite capable of carrying on with the business of running the country" when he met him in New York yesterday for talks on the "Third Way", as the video of the President's testimony was being given its first public airing.

Two national television channels suspended afternoon programmes to show dubbed versions of Mr Clinton's testimony in its entirety.

But in a country of tough privacy laws, the decision to show the video met as much protest as interest: the consumers' association Codacons threatened to sue the state broadcaster RAI for broadcasting the material at a time when children were likely to be in front of screens.

One Italian civil rights group announced its intention to take Kenneth Starr to the International Court of Justice for spreading pornography on the Internet.

SWITZERLAND

German-language television showed the video for more than an hour with a voice-over by a German-language interpreter. The broadcast was attacked by the country's media watchdog, Swiss Television and Radio Association, which said: "We cannot see what possible information the Swiss public could get out of this broadcast beyond pure voyeurism."

MIDDLE EAST

The Lebanese Broadcasting corporation appeared to be the only station in the region carrying the simultaneous broadcast. Many Jordanians and others watched the video on cable television, and Kuwait's former oil minister, Ali al-Baghli, called it a historic day, from which poorer countries might learn something. "The head of the most important country is accounting for breaking the law, just like any ordinary person. I hope this will be a lesson to us in the Third World."

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