Palacio in Washington for talks on Iraq’s future
7 January 2004
WASHINGTON – The future of Iraq was top of the agenda during talks between Spain’s foreign minister and the Bush administration in Washington Wednesday.
Ana Palacio was meeting with US Secretary of State Colin Powell in the American capital, Spanish diplomats said.
During her two-day stay, Palacio is to also hold talks with Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, National Security Adviser Condoleeza Rice and Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge.
The foreign minister’s meeting with Powell will focus on the situation in Iraq and especially the US-led coalition’s efforts to rebuild the country and establish a democratic government, the diplomats said.
The government in Madrid was a fervent supporter of the war to oust Iraqi President Saddam Hussein, despite widespread opposition by most Spaniards to the conflict.
There are currently 1,300 Spanish troops based in the south of the country to aid stablization and reconstruction efforts.
Palacio and Powell are to discuss other Middle East issues, such as the Arab-Israeli conflict and Iran, and details of the visit to Washington next week by Spanish Prime Minister José María Aznar who is to meet with President George W. Bush.
Later Wednesday, Palacio is to have a working dinner with Rice and on Thursday will hold talks with Rumsfeld.
Diplomats said they may analyze an extradition request by a Spanish judge for four terrorist suspects held by the United States at military prison in Guantanamo bay in Cuba.
Judge Baltazar Garzon wants to question the suspects, who include one Spaniard, on their alleged ties to the Al Qaeda organization’s cells active in Spain.
Palacio and Rumsfeld are also to discuss U.S. plans to modify American military deployments overseas which could entail a reduction or redistribution of US troops in Europe.
The foreign minister’s talks with Ridge are to cover airline security, including a U.S. request to place armed air marshals aboard some US-bound flights originating in Spain.
Spanish diplomats said Washington’s request would only involve putting the marshals on Spanish airliners when there is a credible terrorist threat.
Over the past two weeks, 15 US-bound flights from Britain, France and Mexico have been cancelled for fear that terrorists were planning to hijack the airliners and launch attacks like those of 9/11 against targets on American soil.
[Copyright EFE with Expatica]
Subject: Spanish news