Political row as Spain mourns Iraq deaths

2nd December 2003, Comments 0 comments

2 December 2003 , MADRID - A political row blew up Tuesday as Spain held a national day of mourning for the seven secret service agents killed in Iraq.

2 December 2003

MADRID - A political row blew up Tuesday as Spain held a national day of mourning for the seven secret service agents killed in Iraq.

Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar was accused of being "insensitive" because he returned to address Parliament hours after the state funerals.

The row took another twist when Britain's chief diplomat in Iraq claimed that the Spanish intelligence agents and the two Japanese diplomats killed on Saturday had not taken sufficient safety measures.

Spain's King Juan Carlos, Queen Sofia and Aznar led mourners at the funeral service, which was broadcast live on state television.

Ten Spaniards have died since 1,300 soldiers were sent to Iraq in August.

Hundreds of people and high-ranking officials joined the victims' families at the funerals, as prayers were said over the seven coffins draped in the Spanish national flag.

The service was held near Madrid at the headquarters of the military intelligence service, which deployed the men in Iraq.

A decision by Mr Aznar to address parliament after the ceremony sparked a fierce reaction from the opposition.

In his speech, Mr Aznar insisted Spain should remain in Iraq despite the bloodshed, but his timing was criticised by his opponents.

Meanwhile, Sir Jeremy Greenstock, Britain's leading diplomat in Iraq, told the BBC in London: "People have to be very careful. The Spaniards and the Japanese who were killed this week were not following the strictest possible protection rules."

"We dealing with a very proud and brutal country. We've accepted a big job and we are seeing it through to the end," the diplomat told the BBC.

Greenstock also referred to recent U.S. military operations against the Iraqi guerrillas which have caused casualties among civilians.

"The number of affected civilians is very low, certainly lower than the number of Iraqi civilians killed by terrorists," he said, referring to the guerrillas.

Greenstock admitted that while the security situation in Iraq was difficult, he stressed that there "is not a strategic military threat. There is no way we can be militarily defeated there."

[Copyright EFE with Expatica]

Subject: Spanish news

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