Zapatero ridiculedfor 'devaluing Spain'

22nd September 2004, Comments 0 comments

22 September 2004, MADRID - A bitter political row blew up Wednesday over suggestions by Spanish premier José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero that an alliance should be formed between the West and Islamic nations.

22 September 2004

MADRID - A bitter political row blew up Wednesday over suggestions by Spanish premier José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero that an alliance should be formed between the West and Islamic nations.

The opposition Popular Party (PP) ridiculed Zapatero's sugestion, claiming he had devalued the image of Spain to the outside world.

PP spokesman Eduardo Zaplana said Zapatero's speech to the UN General Assembly in New York was full of "empty words".

He claimed the speech could create some ironic reaction from other European leaders.
Zaplana said they were the thoughts of a college student.

Other left-wing opposition parties supported Zapatero's suggestion.

Speaking late Tuesday, Zapatero proposed the creation of an Alliance of Civilizations to foster understanding between the Christian and Islamic worlds.

Zapatero began with references to Iraq by expressing his solidarity with all those who have lost their lives in a conflict which, he said, "an overwhelming majority" of Spaniards opposed from the beginning.

He contradicted former Spanish prime minister Jose Maria Aznar, who in an appearance at Georgetown University in the US the same day, claimed most Spaniards wanted the war to be won.

Zapatero said: "We said that war was much easier to win than peace was. Peace is the task, a task that demands more courage, more determination and more heroism than war. That's why Spanish troops were withdrawn from Iraq."

Now, the most important thing is to contribute to re-establishing complete independence and sovereignty in that country, he added.

Concerning the actions of radical Basque ETA terrorists, Zapatero emphasised that Spaniards have learned over a period of 30 years how to live with and combat terrorism. That is why they understood so well the pain the American people felt following the September 11 attacks.

He also expressed gratitude for the outpouring of solidarity following the March 11 attacks, when Islamic radicals killed 191 people by bombing four Madrid commuter trains.

All these experiences, the Spanish leader said, have taught us that "the greatest risk of a terrorist victory comes about when, in an effort to combat terrorism, democracy betrays its own essence, governments restrict freedoms, question legal guarantees or launch preventive military operations."

For this reason, Zapatero insisted that terrorism must be fought within the framework of national and international law and respect for human rights and the United Nations.

He stressed that terrorism cannot be justified, but that it is necessary to understand the underlying causes of this scourge. "The seed of evil" can take root when it falls "on the soil of injustice, poverty, humiliation and despair."

The premier reiterated Spain's commitment to peacekeeping operations and, as part of that commitment and "as a representative of a nation built and enriched by diverse cultures," he proposed the establishment of an Alliance of Civilizations between the Christian and Muslim worlds.

"A wall fell and we should now ensure that hatred and misunderstanding do not raise another," added Zapatero, who called on UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan to establish a high-level group to carry out his initiative.

Regarding the Middle East, he reiterated his support for the role of the so-called "Quartet" of mediators - the United States, Russia, the European Union and the United Nations - that drew up a "road map" for peace in the region, noting that "lost time is counted in human lives."

Zapatero expressed support for a viable Palestinian nation while defending Israel's right to defend itself through legitimate means against terrorism.

He said Israel could count on the support of the international community as long as it respects international law, but he claimed Israel's construction of a barrier to keep out the Palestinians was not legal.

[Copyright EFE with Expatica]

Subject: Spanish news

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