King gives Zapatero verdict on Bush meeting

23rd November 2004, Comments 0 comments

25 November 2004, MADRID-Spain's King Juan Carlos was meeting with prime minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero to tell him how his meeting with US President George W Bush went.

25 November 2004

MADRID-Spain's King Juan Carlos was meeting with prime minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero to tell him how his meeting with US President George W Bush went.

King Juan Carlos and Queen Sofia were due to return to Madrid after celebrating Thanksgiving with Bush at his ranch in Texas.

The meeting is being seen in political circles in Madrid as crucial in order to mend damaged relations between the two countries in recent months. 

The US President welcomed the Spanish Royal couple on Wednesday, offering some warm hospitality to offset a freezing, howling wind.

"Spain is a great country and a good ally," Bush said as he greeted the king and Queen Sofia, who flew to Crawford, Texas by helicopter.

Bush was accompanied by his wife, Laura, and his father, former president George H W Bush.

The president immediately whisked the royal couple off on a tour of his "Prairie Chapel" ranch, which was hardly looking its best having been battered, like much of Texas, by heavy storms for several days.

An invitation to Bush's ranch is considered a personal gesture extended to close allies, and the visit by Juan Carlos comes amid difficulties in US-Spanish ties caused by the war in Iraq.

Relations between Washington and Madrid have gone downhill since Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero no sooner took office in April than he withdrew Spanish soldiers deployed beside US troops in Iraq, fulfilling a campaign pledge.

The Spanish vote came days after bombings of Madrid's commuter trains, in which 191 people died on 11 March. Aznar's government had tried to  blame Basque separatists for the bombings, which were later claimed by a group linked to Al-Qaeda.

The decision to withdraw from Iraq went down particularly badly with Bush, who had an excellent working relationship with Zapatero's predecessor, conservative Jose Maria Aznar, who lost the March election.

Bush, a few days after his re-election, opened the White House for a personal visit from Aznar, now living in Washington, but ignored Zapatero's phone calls offering congratulations on the 2 November victory.

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

For lunch, the royal couple were offered some traditional turkey on the eve of the Thanksgiving holiday in the United States.

The Spanish royal couple has been on a US visit since attending an Ibero-American summit in Costa Rica.

They made a cultural visit to Seattle, in the US Pacific northwest.

Bush and Juan Carlos have not planned a press conference after their meeting.

The king is obliged not to make political statements on foreign soil, so as not to infringe on the powers of Spain's government.

But the president planned to give his guests the royal treatment at the isolated Prairie Chapel ranch, about 30 kilometers (20 miles) northwest of Waco, Texas.

Bush bought the ranch in 1999, a year before becoming president, for USD 1.3 million, including a 3.5-hectare (8.6-acre) lake for fishing. He keeps about 200 head of cattle.

Bush spends nearly every holiday, no matter the weather, at the ranch, and has been there preparing to celebrate the 25 November Thanksgiving Day holiday.

It was one year ago that Bush slipped away from the ranch -- and the army of journalists deployed to nearby Waco -- to make a surprise, lightning visit to lift the spirits of US troops serving in Iraq.

Once in Baghdad, Bush helped serve troops and posed for cameras carrying a turkey, before returning immediately to Texas.
[Copyright EFE with Expatica]

Subject: Spanish news








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