Spain did not give-in to terrorism: Zapatero
13 December 2004, MADRID- Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero blamed Islamic radicals linked to Al-Qaeda for the March 11 attacks that killed 191 people in Madrid and called for a cross-party pact against international terrorism.
13 December 2004
MADRID- Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero blamed Islamic radicals linked to Al-Qaeda for the March 11 attacks that killed 191 people in Madrid and called for a cross-party pact against international terrorism.
The socialist leader also hit out at the previous right-wing government of Jose Maria Aznar for trying to pin responsibility on the Basque separatist group ETA and wiping out evidence of its actions at the time of the attacks.
And he slammed the United States for suggesting the outrage had cowed the Spanish people into ousting Aznar, Washington's strong ally in the war in Iraq, at elections three days after the blasts on four commuter trains.
"The control, preparation and responsibility for the March 11 attacks is exclusively linked to international terrorism of the Islamic radical type," Zapatero told the parliamentary commission probing the morning rush-hour attacks, which also left 1,900 people injured.
Zapatero, the first head of government in Spain's history to appear before a parliamentary investigatory panel, said he was basing his statement on the findings of the judiciary, the police, the prison authorities and the intelligence services.
He said the "planning and execution" of the attacks were by the "same" people who were responsible for the September 11, 2001 strikes in the United States and explosions at a Bali nightclub in October 2002, along with bombings in Casablanca, Morocco, in May last year and in Istanbul, Turkey in November 2003.
All those attacks have been blamed on groups linked to Osama bin Laden's
Zapatero added: "My government wants to create, put forward and support a major agreement against international terrorism with the political forces represented in parliament," similar to the 2000 pact on how to fight ETA which the socialists proposed and was accepted and implemented by the Aznar government.
But Eduardo Zaplana, spokesman for Aznar's right-wing Popular Party, poured
cold water on the idea.
"We will always support you in everything you propose against terrorism, against all types of terrorism, but we don't need a pact," he said.
Two weeks ago Aznar, in testimony to the same commission, still refused to rule out ETA involvement in the attacks, possibly in collaboration with Islamists.
Most analysts saw the blasts as aimed at punishing Spain for its support for the US-led war in Iraq, including the sending of 1,400 troops there, and Aznar's insistence that ETA was to blame was seen as instrumental in his ousting in the previously scheduled March 14 elections.
Zapatero said the interrogation of Islamist suspects and ETA prisoners had shown there was no link between them in planning or carrying out the attacks and there was never any evidence of ETA involvement.
The prime minister rejected Aznar's claim that the blasts had been timed to influence the polls, but said the involvement in Iraq had increased the risk of attacks.
Referring to US insinuations of Spanish "cowardice" in ousting Aznar, Zapatero said, "knowing our people, it is impossible for anyone to imagine that Spanish citizens would bend to the supposed aims of terrorists".
"It is unacceptable to add, to the pain of the deaths and the humiliation at not having prevented the attacks, the infamy of branding a courageous people as as cowards," he said, in allusion to Spain's experience of ETA attacks.
"How can some still say that Spain gave in?"
He said he had pulled the troops out of Iraq after taking office because public opinion was against their presence, because the war was illegal, did not respect the United Nations procedures and was counterproductive in the campaign against terrorism.
Zapatero also slammed Aznar's government for wiping its computers before bowing out, notably of policy documents relating to the March 11 attacks.
"In the prime minister's office we did not have a single document or any data on computer because the whole cabinet of the previous government carried out a massive erasure," Zapatero said.
"That means that we have nothing about what happened, information that might have been received, meetings or decisions that were taken from March 11 until March 14," when the elections took place.
[Copyright EFE with Expatica]
Subject: Spanish news