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Moratinos in White House showdown

Published on 21/04/2004

21 April 2004

MADRID – Spanish Foreign Minister Miguel Angel Moratinos held talks at the White House Wednesday to explain Madrid’s decision to withdraw its troops from Iraq.

Moratinos, who arrived in Washington late Tuesday, met Secretary of State Colin Powell and National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice.

He was also expected to meet US congressional leaders from both parties to explain the new Socialist government’s foreign policy approach and the withdrawal decision.

Earlier Tuesday in Dublin, Moratinos said Powell received the news of Spain’s decision to withdraw its troops in Iraq with “disappointment” but “understanding”.

He also said that, despite the Bush administration’s disappointment over Madrid’s Iraq pullout, he did not expect confrontation during his visit to Washington but rather constructive dialogue between “good allies”.

The foreign minister made his remarks after meeting with his counterpart from Ireland, which currently holds the rotating presidency of the European Union.

The new Spanish government headed by Socialist Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, who took office last weekend, is pulling Madrid’s 1,300 troops out of the increasingly heated conflict.

The conservative government defeated in the 14 March general election had been one of Washington’s staunchest European allies over the Iraq invasion.

But 80 percent of the Spanish public were against becoming involved in the conflict.
Moratinos denied that the US government had “scolded” Spain for its decision to recall its troops, saying it had only expressed its “disappointment”.

“Between important allies such as the United States and Spain, the important thing is for there to be a dialogue … a balanced and constructive dialogue,” he said.

That sort of spirit prevailed during the brief Monday phone conversation between US President George W Bush and Zapatero, who informed Bush of Spain’s position, Moratinos added.

Moratinos  said his talks in Washington will focus on the war on terrorism, and “moving the political process in Iraq forward”.

Asked about the possibility of the United Nations approving a new resolution on Iraq, Moratinos said the drafting of such a document was “in the preliminary stages” and that Spain intends to maintain a “very constructive” attitude.

“Spain will try to use this debate on Iraq to make everyone aware that what’s most important is giving the Iraqi people a chance to enjoy stability and the sort of free, democratic regime that has, so far, eluded it,” he said.

“The United States, Spain and its European partners have the same concerns,” he said.

“That’s why we don’t expect any sort of confrontation, just a good talk with our friends and allies.”

[Copyright EFE with Expatica]

 Subject: Spanish news