Aznar denies lying over Madrid massacre
24 March 2004
MADRID – Defeated Spanish Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar insisted it was “logical” to blame ETA for the Madrid terrorist attacks, it was reported Wednesday.
Voters who rejected his Popular Party were thought to be angry that his government rushed to blame the militant Basques.
Some also thought his decision to back the US over the war in Iraq made Spain a target for the bombers.
They believed the government was deceiving the public in an effort to help its position at the general election on 14 March.
But in his first public remarks since the election defeat, Aznar insisted that he regretted nothing.
In an interview on Spanish television late Tuesday, Aznar said he was leaving office with clean hands and with his head held high.
He had always acted in Spain’s best interests, he said.
“We have spoken the truth at all times and we have shown that,” he said.
He said it was “logical” to start by suspecting ETA.
“When it was necessary to open another line of investigation, it was done,” he added.
Thirteen people are currently being held over the attacks, most of them Moroccans.
The shock victory of the Socialists came after polls in the run-up to the general election had shown Spanish voters intended to return the Popular Party to power for their third term.
Aznar, prime minister for eight years, planned to stand down and hand power to his chosen successor, Mariano Rajoy.
Aznar refused to speculate on whether the attacks and the election defeat were linked – but insisted that the election results were entirely legitimate.
“Spain suffered a terrible attack, the most terrible attack Spain has ever suffered and one of the largest attacks there has been in the history of the world,” Aznar told Telecinco private television.
“Whoever carried it out had a very clear intention, and the intention was to attack us, to attack Spain, to attack Spaniards, to destroy our system, our freedoms, our co-existence.
“But look, the results of the elections are absolutely legitimate, and as such they must be respected.”
Aznar also condemned the intention by Spain’s socialist prime minister-elect, Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, to withdraw Spanish troops from Iraq.
It could be interpreted as giving in to terrorists and would certainly weaken the international coalition against terror, which would be a “very grave error”, Aznar said.
“What the terrorists want is for us to throw in the towel,” he said.
[Copyright EFE with Expatica]
Subject: Spanish news