7 July 2004
MADRID – Spain is to increase the size of the country’s troop contingent in Afghanistan and to contribute personnel to the U.N. peacekeeping force in Haiti, it was reported Wednesday.
In the first-ever vote of its kind in the Spanish Parliament, MPs voted in favour of the move.
Former Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar dispatched troops to Iraq in 2003 without consulting the parliament.
The Spanish contingent in Afghanistan will receive an additional 500 soldiers bringing the total to about 1,004 stationed in the country.
A large number of them have been assigned exclusively to maintain security during the elections scheduled for September.
The troops will remain deployed until the elections are over but will be reduced to 540 soldiers in December.
Although the Haiti contingent has not been finalised, the government predicts a deployment of about 110 members of the Civil Guard, Spain’s militarized national police force.
In a speech prior to the vote asking lawmakers for their support Tuesday, Socialist prime minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero justified the deployment of troops to Afghanistan and Haiti by attributing it to upholding international law and respect for Spain’s obligations.
He stressed that both missions are backed by U.N. Security Council resolutions that “do not leave room for biased interpretation” and grant them “legality and legitimacy.”
The premier said that Spanish troops will remain in Afghanistan more than three months only in a “very extreme situation,” in which case he would ask parliament to consider the extension.
Zapatero said that his administration will send to parliament a bill that would give lawmakers an explicit role in decisions about the deployment of troops to foreign countries before December.
The Socialists and other parties sharply criticized Aznar’s conservative administration for sending troops to Iraq without any consultation with the legislature.
Zapatero, fulfilling a campaign promise, ordered Spanish soldiers home from Iraq n immediately after taking office in April.
[Copyright EFE with Expatica]
Subject: Spanish news