Spain to withdraw troops'as soon as possible'

19th April 2004, Comments 0 comments

19 April 2004, MADRID – Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero's decision to order the return of Spain's troops from Iraq sparked a re-think among other countries Monday.

19 April 2004

MADRID –  Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero's decision to order the return of Spain's troops from Iraq sparked a re-think among other countries Monday.

The new Spanish prime minister announced the 1,300 contingent would return "with the maximum of security and in the shortest time possible".

Amid speculation that other countries may follow Spain's example, Washington's National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice said Monday: "I think there are going to be some changes."

But the US administrator in Iraq Paul Bremer warned that foreign troops are needed to ensure security in the country.

It came after a mortar bomb landed in the Swedish embassy enclave in Baghdad Monday and British troops came under fire.

Zapatero said Sunday after his inauguration that the decision to pull the troops out of Iraq was made because it appeared unlikely that a UN resolution would be adopted that met the conditions of the new Spanish government.

The prime minister had pledged during his campaign that he would bring the troops home unless Iraq was placed under a United Nations mandate.

Zapatero's announcement, made at the Moncloa Palace, was his first public appearance since his swearing in Saturday.

He said he had given "orders for the defence minister to do what is necessary to bring home Spanish troops in Iraq".

Defence Minister Jose Bono, who was sworn in Sunday, will provide an update on the withdrawal process in the next few days, the prime minister said.

"More than a year ago I made a public promise. I said that, should I be elected prime minister, I would make a decision to bring home Spanish troops if the UN didn't take charge of the situation," Zapatero said.

"The information gathered in recent weeks leads us to believe that this (UN takeover) is not going to happen," Zapatero said, referring to public statements, as well as talks between Bono and the international organization.

In this way, he claimed to be keeping his "word" and said he had no intention of acting "against the will voiced by the Spanish people".

"Spain will continue to be faithful to its allies and we will meet our commitments to peacekeeping and security missions," he added.

Zapatero said that "an urgent plenary session of the parliament" had been called to inform legislators of the decision.

The United States had been expecting the Spanish decision to pull troops from Iraq, a move that Rice said would not affect the coalition.

Minutes before Zapatero announced the withdrawal in Madrid, Rice told the ABC television network that Washington was expecting the decision.

For the past year, Spain has had some 1,300 soldiers deployed in Iraq in the international Plus Ultra Brigade, which also includes troops from Honduras, Nicaragua, El Salvador and the Dominican Republic.

The international unit is based in the southern Iraqi city of Najaf and is one component of a multinational division under Polish command.

[Copyright EFE with Expatica]

Subject: Spanish news

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