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Aznar under pressureover Iraq weapons

2 February 2004

MADRID – Spanish prime minister Jose Maria Aznar came under fresh pressure Monday over controversial weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.

Opposition parties are urging Aznar to submit to an investigation over the basis of claims made by his government that the US invasion should be supported because Saddam Hussein owned weapons of mass destruction which could be used at short notice.

Since the end of the war, no weapons have been found and speculation is mounting that they did not exist.

US President George W Bush has said that in the next few days he could agree to start an investigation into what provided the basis of this claim.

Opposition parties in the United States have accused the president of manipulating the CIA to help gain public support for the war.

In Spain, José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero, leader of the socialist PSOE opposition party and Gaspar Llamazares, head of the left-wing IU party have demanded that Mariano Rajoy, prime ministerial candidate of the ruling right-wing Popular Party (PP) and Aznar should explain “falsitites and manipulations” behind Spain’s support for the Iraq war.

Zapatero said: “Each day it is clearer that there are no weapons of mass destruction.”

He compared the attitudes of the US and Britain with that of Spain.

The Bush administration was prepared to submit to an investigation, said Zapatero, and the Blair government had recognized that “serious errors” could have been made on this issue.

But the Aznar administration refused to take responsibility, claimed Zapatero.

Llamazares also called on the government to bring the Spanish troops back from Iraq.

So far the government has refused to submit to any inquiry over its support for the war.

Aznar travels to Washington Monday night to address the Senate Tuesday as part of his farewell to the United States as he prepares to leave office.

At least 1,500 Spanish troops are still thought to be part of the peace-keeping force. Seven secret service agents were killed in an ambush last year, another was shot dead and one more lies gravely ill in hospital after being involved an another incident last month.

Support for the war has been hugely controversial in Spain, with up to 80 percent of the population said to be against the conflict.

It will probably be a key issue in the forthcoming general election on 14 March.

[Copyright EFE with Expatica]

Subject: Spanish news