Troops finally leave Iraq
21 May 2004
MADRID – The last Spanish soldiers in Iraq were leaving Friday ahead of the deadline set by prime minister Jose Lluis Rodriguez Zapatero.
The troops have left their base in the southern town of Diwaniyah and were heading for the border with Kuwait.
Spain’s previous government had sent about 1,400 troops to Iraq, despite widespread public opposition.
The move has provoked other countries to consider pulling out their troops.
Italian MPs rejected an opposition call to withdraw its 3,000 troops currently serving in Iraq.
The Italian soldiers form the third-largest contingent of the coalition, after the US and the UK, and Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi was insistent that they will be staying put until Iraq is able to govern itself.
The bulk of the Spanish troops returned home on 28 April after leaving their main base in the southern city of Najaf.
Those that remained were non-combat personnel working on the logistics of completing the pull-out, officials said.
In April newly-elected prime minister Zapatero said that there would be no Spanish personnel on Iraqi territory by 27 May.
Zapatero was the surprise winner of Spain’s general election
The loss of the Spanish troops was a blow to the coalition and sparked fears that other countries would soon follow suit.
Honduras and the Dominican Republic said they would also withdraw their smaller contingents.
However, Italy joined the US and UK in saying that they were committed to keeping troops in Iraq.
But there is growing public discontent over the Italian military involvement in Iraq.
[Copyright EFE with Expatica]
Subject: Spanish news