Expatica news

Spain to keep troops in Balkans, Afghanistan

23 June 2004

MADRID – Spain is to extend its role in peacekeeping missions in Bosnia, Kosovo and Afghanistan, it was reported Wednesday.

The previous administration of conservative prime minister Jose Maria Aznar extended in December the deployment of the military contingents to 30 June, and a new extension is expected to be approved this Friday during the weekly Cabinet meeting.

Premier Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero ended Spain’s participation in the US-led international coalition in Iraq and withdrew Spain’s 1,300 troops last month to fulfil an election campaign promise.

Though the government had planned to reduce the number of troops deployed in the Balkans, Defence Minister Jose Bono said several days ago that ethnic tension in Kosovo “invites us to remain” in that province, where 816 Spanish soldiers form part of KFOR, a NATO-led force responsible for security.

Bono said Madrid plans to carry on playing a part in SFOR – the Nato stabilisation force for the region – when it is led by the European Union in January 2005.

Meanwhile, 141 Spanish soldiers are deployed in Kabul as part of the Nato-led International Security Assistance Force for Afghanistan.

Spain plans to send an additional 92 when the EU takes over the multinational operation in August.

However, calls for Madrid to increase the number of its troops in Afghanistan have grown in the past few weeks.

Bono acknowledged Spain “urgently” needed to increase its security force in Afghanistan, saying “we can’t shrug off” the responsibility of combating terrorism and drug trafficking.

The Spanish warship Navarra set sail two days ago to relieve the Numancia in the US-led Operation Enduring Freedom in the Indian Ocean.

[Copyright EFE with Expatica]

Subject: Spanish news