Moratinos gets rough ride in Washington peace mission

15th April 2005, Comments 0 comments

15 April 2005, WASHINGTON- Spain's foreign minister has found a generally unsympathetic audience in the first part of his mission to improve Madrid's relations with Washington.

15 April 2005

WASHINGTON- Spain's foreign minister has found a generally unsympathetic audience in the first part of his mission to improve Madrid's relations with Washington.

Miguel Angel Moratinos defended the need to intensify the two nations' bilateral dialogue in his first meeting with lawmakers on his visit to the US capital.

But US politicians gave Moratinos a hard time over Madrid's policy toward Cuba and Venezuela.

Moratinos, representing a Socialist government that prompted expressions of ire from the Bush administration when it pulled Madrid's troops out of Iraq last year, met representatives of the political, social and media world in Washington.

Essentially, the goal of the trip is to explain to the US public the principles and objectives of current Spanish foreign policy.

Moratinos has met members of the House International Relations Committee.

Both Republican and Democratic congressmen told the Spanish minister they did not understand the strategy being pursued by the government of Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero toward Havana and Caracas, diplomatic sources said.

Earlier this year, Madrid pushed for, and obtained, the lifting of European Union diplomatic sanctions against Cuba, measures imposed in the spring of 2003 following the Communist government's imprisonment of 75 peaceful dissidents.

It is also pursuing improved relations with Venezuela, led by leftist Hugh Chavez, a fervent admirer of Castro.

Earlier this month, US Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld criticized Spain's sale to Venezuela of eight military patrol boats and 10 transport planes, calling the deal "a mistake."

In one meeting, diplomatic sources said Democrat representative Tom Lantos told Moratinos that Europe has a bad image in the US because Americans felt they had not received help they had expected.

He asked the head of the Spanish diplomatic corps to bring that unease to the attention of his EU colleagues.

Moratinos, for his part, explained to the US legislators the need for bilateral dialogue to be intensified, saying that it was the only way to clear up the problems and misunderstandings that are currently prejudicing relations between Spain and the United States.

Moratinos is expected to meet on Friday with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, which could be crucial to the future of relations between the two countries.

[Copyright EFE with Expatica]

Subject: Spanish news

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