Aznar denies 'medal' scandal
23 July 2004, MEXICO CITY- Former Spanish minister Jose Maria Aznar said Friday allegations that he used USD 2 million of public money to finance his bid for a medal from the US Congress deserved "contempt".
23 July 2004
MEXICO CITY- Former Spanish minister Jose Maria Aznar said Friday allegations that he used USD 2 million of public money to finance his bid for a medal from the US Congress deserved "contempt".
Left-leaning Spanish radio station Cadena Ser revealed Thursday Aznar allegedly used USD 2 million of public money to pay a US lobby firm to campaign for him to win the gold medal of the US Congress.
The cash was paid through the Spanish Foreign Office to a Washington lobby firm.
Despite a campaign which was launched in January, Aznar has not received enough support to win the medal from US legislators.
Oppostion politicians have called for an investigation to be launched into the claims that Aznar "embezzled" public funds for private ends.
Meanwhile, the former Foreign Minister Ana Palacio, a member of Aznar's conservative Popular Party government, confirmed that the lobby firm Piper Rudnick had been paid to secure the medal for the former premier, who left power after the March general election.
Palacio said, among other things, the contract between the Spanish government and the lobby firm concerned campaigning for Aznar to be awarded the medal.
Aznar told Mexican radio station W Radio: "I don't have anything to deny or confirm. I simply say that these allegations deserve only scorn."
The former premier, who was visiting Mexico to promote his book 'Eight years of government' detailing his time as leader of Spain, claimed the allegations were an attempt to divert attention from the inquiry into the 11 March terrorist attacks.
But Palacio appeared to contradict her earlier statement by denying that the contract with the USlaw firm was simply to make sure Aznar was awarded the medal.
"Nothing is further from reality. The object of the contract was to support Spanish commercial, cultural and diplomatic interests," she said.
She claimed the campaign to give Aznar the medal was an initiative started by members of the US Congress and Senate, which started in May last year, long before the contract was signed in December 2003.
Palacio also claimed that the Spanish ambassador to Washington said it was proving difficult to promote the country's interests in the US and she said a lobby firm should be engaged.
[Copyright EFE with Expatica]
Subject: Spanish news