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Iraq dominates as Zapatero and Blair meet

24 March 2004

MADRID – The future of Iraq was at the centre of talks Wednesday between new Spanish premier Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero and British prime minister Tony Blair in Madrid.

The brief meeting came ahead of state funerals for the 190 victims of the Madrid bombings.

Zapatero has said he will withdraw Spanish troops from Iraq if the United Nations does not take over running the country after the 30 June deadline agreed by allies involved in the invasion.

Blair argued the 30 June deadline for the transfer of power to Iraqis was a vital moment.

Zapatero did not promise to reverse his pledge to pull troops out of Iraq unless the UN takes over.

The Socialist leader has accused Blair and the United States of lying over the Iraq war, which he opposed.

The pair discussed Iraq and other issues for 25 minutes without officials present.

Civil servants joined the two men as they found apparent agreement on European economic reform, education and productivity problems in the rest of the hour-long session.

Zapatero, in what was his first meeting with a foreign leader, stressed domestic issues in Spain and his election promises.

But he said he was very keen for Britain to understand that whatever his final decision on pulling out Spanish troops, it should not be read as Spain withdrawing support for the transition to a stable and democratic Iraq.

[Copyright EFE with Expatica]

Subject: Spanish news