Australia refuses to apologiseto Spain over terror row

27th July 2004, Comments 0 comments

27 July 2004, SYDNEY - The Australian government refused Tuesday to apologise to Spain and the Philippines after a diplomatic row flared over Australia's claim that the two countries had encouraged militants in Iraq by caving in to their demands.

27 July 2004

SYDNEY - The Australian government refused Tuesday to apologise to Spain and the Philippines after a diplomatic row flared over Australia's claim that the two countries had encouraged militants in Iraq by caving in to their demands.

Foreign Minister Alexander Downer said Australia had always argued that giving in to the demands of militants would encourage more hostage-taking and Canberra felt no need to apologise.

"We don't have to worry too much when other countries criticise us occasionally," he told Australian public radio.

"The fact is the reason they are sensitive about it is because this is a controversial issue."

Both countries protested after Downer accused them of empowering the terrorists by conceding to their demands, which he said led to a threat by a militant group against Australia unless it recalled its troops from Iraq.

Downer said it was important for countries to send a strong message that they would not be threatened by militant groups.

"You have to stand up to these people, because if you don't, you empower them," he said.

The previously unknown Islamic Tawhid Group reportedly posted a threat on an Islamic website at the weekend warning it would carry out car bombings in Australia and Italy unless they recalled their troops from Iraq.

The group cited the 2002 Bali bombings that claimed 202 lives, including of 88 Australians, as an example of militants' ability to strike Australian interests.

Downer said Sunday the threat stemmed from the Philippines' decision to withdraw from Iraq to secure the release of a kidnapped truck driver and Spain's decision to recall its troops.

The recently-elected Spanish government pulled out of Iraq in the aftermath of the Madrid train bombings which claimed 191 lives in March.

Spain's foreign affairs ministry summoned the Australian ambassador Susan Tanner on Monday to protest against Downer's comments, describing them in a statement as unacceptable, "all the more so as they come from a friendly country".

The Philippines also attacked Australia over its criticism of its decision, and defended its decision to withdraw its troops, with President Gloria Arroyo saying Monday: "I cannot apologise for being a protector of my people."

Downer said the meeting between Australia's ambassador and Spanish officials proved useful as it allowed him to explain Canberra's position.

"Clearly there are complexities in what actually happened in Spain surrounding the election there. But, look, at the end of the day, the terrorists are constantly using the Spanish example in order to bolster their case against other countries," he said.

"I am afraid it is the same with the Philippines in doing not what South Korea and Bulgaria recently did and stand up to the terrorists, but they decided to accede to the demands of the terrorists."

Spain's ambassador to Australia Jose Baranano issued a statement saying he did not wish to enter into a debate with Downer, but that Madrid was absolutely committed in the fight against global terrorism, independently of the US-led coalition.

The Labour opposition said while it agreed governments should not negotiate with terrorists, it condemned Downer's use of "megaphone diplomacy" to criticise the Philippines and Spain.
  
[Copyright EFE with Expatica]

Subject: Spanish news

 

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