Obama would meet with Zapatero
US Democratic candidate says he would meet with Spanish leader if he wins the presidency.
23 September 2008
MADRID -- Democrat Barack Obama says he would meet with the leader of Spain if he wins the presidency, a meeting rival John McCain did not guarantee when asked earlier in September.
Asked if he would sit down for face-to-face talks with Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, Obama told Radio Caracol Miami, "Of course. Spain is a NATO ally".
The interview was held Sunday in Florida and broadcast in Spain and other Spanish-speaking countries on Monday.
Obama criticised his Republican rival, who earlier in September avoided questions about meeting with Zapatero, a Socialist prime minister who won re-election earlier in 2008. McCain at first appeared to think the interviewer was referring to a Latin American leader, even though Spain is in Europe.
When the interviewer noted the geography, McCain continued to avoid the question, saying he would be "willing to meet with any leader who is dedicated to the same principles and philosophy that we are for: human rights, democracy and freedom".
Obama, who said he would meet with far more controversial world leaders than Zapatero, said McCain's response showed he wanted to continue the current American government's forceful foreign policy.
"The fact that Senator McCain indicated that he might not meet with Zapatero I think indicated that he wants to continue the (Vice President Dick) Cheney policies of trying to dictate American foreign policy instead of trying to build cooperation", Obama said in the interview, which was held in English.
Zapatero never had a formal face-to-face meeting at the White House with US President George W. Bush.
Shortly after taking power in April 2004, Zapatero brought home 1,300 Spanish troops that the conservative former prime minister Jose Maria Aznar sent to Iraq. The withdrawal weakened US-Spanish relations, though they improved in recent years.
Following McCain's earlier comments, Zapatero said he wanted good relations with the United States regardless of who wins in November. But the left-leaning Spanish leader in the past stated his choice.
In a June interview with the Spanish newspaper El Pais, Zapatero said, "I mustn't confuse my wishes with reality, but I have already said elsewhere that I like Obama".
[AP / Paul Haven / Expatica]