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Pulling out of Iraq ‘would betray the victims’

1 December 2003

MADRID – Spain’s Defence Minister, Federico Trillo, said Monday withdrawing troops from Iraq would be “betraying the victims”.

His comments came as Spain prepared for the state funerals on Tuesday of the seven secret agents who were killed in Iraq in an ambush on Saturday.

The agents’ convoy was ambushed near the town of Hilla, as it returned from a mission. Only one man is known to have survived.

The leftist opposition in Iraq has described the 1,300-strong Spanish military contingent as an invasion force and a visible target and called for its withdrawal.

A total of 106 coalition troops are reported to have died in Iraq during November.

Speaking in Madrid, Trillo said: “We are fighting for the values that exist in Spain: peace, liberty and democracy.

“We have to show solidarity with those that believe in these values – even more so now that Spaniards have lost their lives there in defence of the same rights and liberties.”

The minister insisted that the situation in Iraq “has not got worse”.

“It has got worse for the terrorists, but not for the the citizens,” he said. “These savages are against normalisation – exactly what they don’t tolerate, and that’s why they act with more strength when things improve.”

Speaking of the secret service agents who died, Trillo said: “They are very prepared, very orientated and conscious and also very much in line with the atmosphere of the country.”

He said that Spain was receiving “warnings persistently” about threats of resistance attacks as it was part of the “hard core of the international coalition against terrorism.”.

Trillo said this was why the agents were targetted and they were not just killed randomly as has been suggested.

The minister’s comments came after Spanish prime minister Jose Maria Aznar defended his decision to keep troops in Iraq.

He said: “Freedom is under threat from the terrorists.”

A recent poll found 85 per cent of Spaniards believe the Iraq war was a mistake.

Twelve people from four nations allied to the United States have been killed in ambushes in Iraq last weekend alone.

Spain’s foreign minister Ana Palacio was also preparing to travel to Washington Monday for talks at the White House.

[Copyright EFE with Expatica]

Subject: Spanish news