Zapatero pledge to pull troops out of Iraq

15th March 2004, Comments 0 comments

15 March 2004, MADRID - The new Socialist Party prime minister-elect confirmed Monday he will pull Spanish troops out of Iraq.

15 March 2004

MADRID - The new Socialist Party prime minister-elect confirmed Monday he will pull  Spanish troops out of Iraq.

Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero said: "The war in Iraq was a disaster, the occupation of Iraq is a disaster."

The Socialist Party won a shock poll victory after voters appeared to turn on the government over its handling of the Madrid bombings.

Spain, with more than 1,300 troops in Iraq, supported the US-led war on Iraq despite much domestic opposition.

At least 80 percent of Spaniards were said to be against the previous prime minister Jose Maria Aznar's support for the invasion.

Zapatero told Spanish radio that no decision would be taken until he was in power or without wide political consultation.

But the soldiers would be pulled out if there was no change in Iraq by the 30 June deadline for transfer of sovereignty.

"Wars such as those which have occurred in Iraq only allow hatred, violence and terror to proliferate," Mr Zapatero said.

By 30 June, the US and UK hope that the Security Council will have given UN approval to the handover plan.

In addition the interim Iraqi government will be asking foreign troops to stay as part of a UN-approved multinational force.

Menawhile, investigations are continuing into who was behind the bombings Thursday in which 201 people died and more than 1,400 were injured.

A videotaped claim of responsibility by a man identifying himself as al-Qaeda's military spokesman in Europe forced the government to change its stance on the most likely suspects.

The tape — claiming revenge for Spain's "collaboration with the criminals Bush and his allies" — was found in a litterbin on Saturday following a tip-off to a TV station.

Three Moroccans and two Indians were still being held Monday in connection with the attacks.

The three Moroccans being held were named as Jamal Zougam, 30, Mohamed Bekkali, 31, and Mohamed Chaoui, 34.

The two Indians arrested were named as Vinay Kohly and Suresh Kumar.

The El Pais newspaper reported that investigators had found links between Jamal Zougam and the Salafia Jihadia group held responsible for attacks in Casablanca last May in which more than 40 people died.

One of the targets of the Moroccan attacks was a Spanish cultural centre where four Spaniards were killed.

Reports also linked Jamal Zougam to a Spanish cell of al-Qaeda which was headed by Imad Eddin Barakat Yarkas, also known as "Abu Dahdah".

Abu Dahdah has been indicted by the Spanish anti-terrorist prosecutor Baltasar Garzon on charges relating to the preparation of the attacks of 11 September 2001 in the United States.

El Pais said Jamal Zougam was cited at two points in Garzon's indictment, but was not charged.

[Copyright EFE with Expatica]

Subject: Spanish news

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