US ambassador hits back over National Day row

14th October 2004, Comments 0 comments

14 October 2004, MADRID- The US ambassador explained Friday his controversial absence from Spain's National Day celebrations.

14 October 2004

MADRID- The US ambassador explained Friday his controversial absence from Spain's National Day celebrations.

The failure of ambassador George Argyros to attend Spain's national day celebrations on Tuesday prompted Foreign Minister Miguel Angel Moratinos to telephone US Secretary of State Colin Powell to express his government's "displeasure", the Spanish daily ABC reported.

Spanish government officials declined to comment on the contents of the telephone conversation, but Moratinos said that Argyros' absence "didn't meet the norms of diplomatic courtesy."

According to ABC, Argyros, a former senior campaign fundraiser for President George W Bush and former owner of the Seattle Mariners baseball team, was off hunting with former US secretary of state and special envoy to Iraq, James Baker.

Later, the ambassador told EFE Friday that his absence from Spain's National Day events this week was in response to what he perceived as a slight from then-opposition leader and now Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero at last year's celebrations.

Argyros did not attend Tuesday's military procession or the subsequent reception hosted by King Juan Carlos for Spain's National Day.

For the first time in three years, U.S. troops were not included in the parade, ending a tradition begun by the conservative government of then-Premier Jose Maria Aznar after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks on Washington and New York.

Argyros' absence has sparked controversy in Spanish diplomatic and political circles, while media outlets depict it as a symptom of the cooling of diplomatic relations, after Spain's troop withdrawal from Iraq.

"Last year, we were disappointed when the honor guard with the U.S. flag approached the reviewing stand. Everybody stood up except for Rodriguez Zapatero," Argyros told EFE.

"And this year," he added, "for a series of reasons, I decided as ambassador not to attend the parade," which was, however, attended by the military attache from the U.S. Embassy in Madrid.

Nonetheless, the ambassador said the United States is Spain's friend and ally, adding "we will continue working together on matters of common interest."

Argyros said the diplomatic relations between the countries are "improving."

Spain's new Socialist government cancelled this year the participation of US soldiers in the military parade, which was initiated by the previous conservative government following the September 11 attacks.

A US military attache attended the parade, a US embassy official said.

[Copyright EFE with Expatica]

Subject: Spanish news

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