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IMF Chief Lagarde Pulls No Punches With Greece, Greeks Punch Back

LE MONDE ( France) THE GUARDIAN (United Kingdom)

PARIS - It may be a sign that the euro zone crisis is reaching a new low when political leaders say out loud what they share behind closed doors. The typically careful managing director of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), Christine Lagarde, has let loose with some plain talk about what has led debt-riddled Greece -- and therefore the rest of Europe (and the world) -- into such a dire financial situation.

Here is what she said in an interview published in British daily The Guardian on Friday:

"Do you know what? As far as Athens is concerned, I also think about all those people who are trying to escape tax all the time. All these people in Greece who are trying to escape tax."

She also said she thought more about the "little kids from a school in a little village in Niger who get teaching two hours a day, sharing one chair for three of them, and who are very keen to get an education," because, according to her, "they need even more help than the people in Athens."

French daily Le Monde reports that Greek politicians were quick to address her comments. Socialist Party leader Evangelos Venizélos said she had "humiliated" the Greek people.

Social media users were also very critical of the former French Finance Minister.

But the fallout even extended to other countries in Europe, including Lagarde's native France. The spokesperson for newly-elected François Hollande's Socialist government called her comments "caricatural." Even Laurence Parisot, head of the largest employer's union in France, said that what Greece needed was help, not more humiliation. The Guardian followed up on the issue in an editorial, calling her "partly responsible" for the banking crisis and criticizing her role as France's finance minister.

For her part, Lagarde posted a statement on her Facebook page, which has since garnered more 20,000 comments. She expressed her sympathy for the Greek people, and said "everyone should carry their fair share of the burden, especially the most privileged and especially in terms of paying their taxes."

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FOCUS: Israel-Palestine War

The Gaza Ceasefire Is Over, With Western Diplomacy Weaker Than Ever

Diplomacy has failed to stave off a resumption of the war in Gaza. Yes, Israel made clear its goal of destroying Hamas is not complete. But the end of the truce is also one more sign that both the U.S. and Europe hold less sway in the region than they once did.

Smoke rising from a building after an Israeli strike on the city Rafah the in southern Gaza strip.

December 1, 2023: Smoke rising from a building after an Israeli strike on the city Rafah the in southern Gaza strip

Source: Abed Rahim Khatib/ZUMA
Pierre Haski


PARIS — Unfortunately, the end of the ceasefire between Israel and Hamas was predictable. In a previous column this week, I wrote that the question was not whether the war would resume, but rather when (and how) it would resume. Israel has made it clear in recent days that it has not yet achieved its goal of destroying Hamas in Gaza, and that it still intends to do just that.

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Still, international diplomacy has not been idle. U.S. Secretary of State Anthony Blinken arrived in Israel on Thursday: the United States was putting pressure on Israel so that, once the conflict resumed, it would inflict fewer civilian casualties — a more “surgical” war.

It is obviously too early to know if Blinken’s words have been heard. The only question is whether Israel will apply the same massive strategy in the south of the territory as in the north, or if the country will carry out more targeted operations, in a region with a very high population density.

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