Zapatero admits a meeting with Bush 'unlikely'

18th January 2007, Comments 0 comments

18 January 2007, MADRID — Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero admitted "it won't be easy" to arrange a meeting with George W. Bush given the two men's sharp differences over the invasion of Iraq.

18 January 2007

MADRID — Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero admitted "it won't be easy" to arrange a meeting with George W. Bush given the two men's sharp differences over the invasion of Iraq.

Zapatero acknowledged that the meeting will be difficult to arrange "because there is a very intense disagreement on Bush's part with my decision to withdraw the (Spanish) troops from Iraq."

Speaking at a meeting of business and political leaders, he said: "It's a decision made by the Spanish people, not by the president of the government.

"The premier has only complied with what the majority of the Spanish people voted for and what they wanted very clearly: for us to leave Iraq. That is the essence of democracy."

In April 2004, one month after winning the election, Zapatero decided to withdraw from Iraq the 1,300 soldiers that the conservative government of Jose Maria Aznar had sent to the U.S.-led war in the face of overwhelming public opposition in Spain.

Withdrawing the troops had been one of the Socialist leader's campaign promises.

However, Zapatero said that the relationship with Washington did not hinge on these matters, and he emphasized the "very notable increase" in U.S. investment in Spain.

Regarding Latin America, where Spain has enormous business interests, the premier urged his compatriots to respect the will of the peoples in the region and the result of the elections held there, regardless of who wins.

"Whether we like it or not, we respect the peoples of Latin America and what they vote for," he said in response to a question about a so-called "pink tide" of election victories by leftist or left-leaning candidates whom some in Europe and the United States label populists.

Zapatero emphasized that "Spain's obligation is to have a positive relationship with all the Ibero-American countries" and he expressed his optimism about the future of the region, despite the serious problem of social inequality there.

"We have positive figures in Ibero-America: it has sustained economic growth of above five percent and that should make us expect also that the social gap will be done away with," he said.

However, Zapatero said that much remains to be done to achieve just societies because "the big problem in Latin America is not the colour and profile of this or that president, but the searing social inequality and the poverty that exists."

[Copyright EFE with Expatica]

Subject: Spanish news

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