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Aznar meets Bush for Iraq talks

13 Janury 2004

WASHINGTON – Spanish Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar was Tuesday visiting the United States to meet President George W Bush and discuss developments in Iraq.

Aznar, who arrived in Washington late Monday, is to spend two days in the US capital attending several economic, academic and political functions, diplomats said.

The Spanish prime minister has been in office since 1996 and has announced that he will not be running in March 14 general elections, so this is likely to be one of his last visits to the US as premier.

A visit to the Oval Office for talks with Bush on Wednesday and a White House dinner in Aznar’s honor are to top off the prime minister’s trip.

The two leaders’ talks were expected to centre on the situation in Iraq.

Aznar was a strong U.S. ally in the build-up to the war in Iraq and in post-war reconstruction efforts.

His popularity fell dramatically in Spain over his support for the invasion with polls indicating 85 percent of Spaniards were against the war.

The dinner in honour of Aznar has been seen in Spain by commentators as a way of saying thank-you from Bush for supporting the US in its invasion of Iraq.

There is speculation that Aznar may also be discussing a future job in the United States after he stands down as prime minister.

The Spanish prime minister and Bush have discussed developments in Iraq on several occasions, both in person and by phone.

One of their most recent talks was by phone the day former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein was arrested.

Their meeting on Wednesday was also expected to touch on Bush’s participation Monday and Tuesday at the Special Summit of the Americas in Monterrey, Mexico.

On Tuesday, Aznar was scheduled to meet with US business leaders to discuss years of economic gains in Spain under his leadership.

Aznar’s trip also includes a stop at Georgetown University for a conference in which the prime minister will reiterate his belief that strong transatlantic ties are the key to global security, according to Spanish government officials.

The prime minister is also scheduled to inaugurate the new Spanish Embassy residence in Washington and meet with Inter-American Development Bank chief Enrique Iglesias.

[copyright EFE with Expatica]

Subject: Spanish news