Bush waiting for 'gestures' from Zapatero

26th November 2004, Comments 0 comments

26 November 2004, MADRID - US President George W Bush is awaiting "gestures" from the Spanish government after King Juan Carlos extended an "olive branch" after the two countries fell out over Iraq.

26 November 2004

MADRID - US President George W Bush is awaiting "gestures" from the Spanish government after King Juan Carlos extended an "olive branch" after the two countries fell out over Iraq.

According to the Spanish daily El Pais, which quoted sources at the meeting at the Bush ranch in Crawford, Texas, and White House sources, Bush and the king met for three hours.

During the encounter, the king transmitted "a message, an olive branch on the part of Zapatero," the paper added, referring to Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero.

Madrid and Washington were close allies when the conservative Jose Maria Aznar was Spanish prime minister, but he was succeeded by Zapatero in April after losing the general election.

Relations then chilled when Zapatero, a bitter opponent of the US-led war in Iraq, swiftly withdrew Spanish troops from the country.

At a dinner attended by the leaders and their wives, Queen Sofia and Laura Bush, as well as former US president George Bush senior, sources said the king buttonholed the current president, asking him "What's up? Are you annoyed?"

George Bush senior offered a swift riposte, El Pais revealed, telling the president: "I told you he's very direct!"

US sources termed the meeting an "act of rapprochement, both sides noting they must work together and look to the future," the paper said.

The US sources said Bush, who reportedly took several days to respond in writing to Zapatero's congratulatory phone call on his re-election on 2 November, was "ready to reach an understanding" with Spain but "is waiting for gestures."

They underlined that cooperation was vital on "various fronts, such as Iran, Syria, the evolution of the Middle East peace process, Cuba or Venezuela."

The sources apparently made no mention of Iraq, the issue which drove the wedge between Madrid and Washington.

El Pais quoted sources at the meeting as saying they "hoped efforts can be made leading towards a softening of (bilateral) relations."

The Spanish king's political powers are limited to the ceremonial naming of the prime minister, but he remains an admired figure both in Spain and abroad, and his visit was seen as an opportunity for some fence-mending.

[Copyright EFE with Expatica]

Subject: Spanish news

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