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Storm over ‘disloyal’ Aznar

Published on 18/05/2004

18 May 2004

MADRID – Former conservative prime minister Jose Maria Aznar was Tuesday dining with George W Bush as a political row blew up over the meeting in Spain.

The controversial trip caused a storm after Aznar commented to the Los Angeles Times that he believed withdrawing Spanish troops from Iraq was bowing down to terrorism.
Politicians in Spain have accused Aznar of disloyalty because he criticised the current government.

But Spanish prime minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero said remarks made by Aznar did not bother him.

In an interview with Radiocable.com, rebroadcast by EFE, the Socialist premier, who came to power on 17 April, said he respected Aznar’s decision to comment on Iraq to the American press.

“Everyone has his own style,” he added.

The day after being sworn in, Zapatero announced that he was pulling out the Spanish troops the Aznar government had sent to Iraq.

The final part of the 1,300-strong contingent of Spanish troops should return this week.

The Socialist leader told Radiocable.com that if Aznar visits US President George W Bush and other world leaders “it’s because he likes being with them”.

When asked whether he considered that Aznar’s statements to the Times had been disloyal or not, Zapatero said that notion was foreign to him, as he is someone for whom “freedom of expression is of prime importance”.

Regarding the possible support Aznar may give the US president, Zapatero said the actions of the former premier did not bother his government.

But he wondered aloud just how much his predecessor could help Bush’s re-election bid.

Finally, the prime minister said that the Spanish people were aware that the decision to withdraw their soldiers from Iraq had been correct.

[Copyright EFE with Expatica]

Subject: Spanish news