Expatica news

Zapatero: Bush appeal on Iraq changes nothing

17 March 2004

MADRID – Spain’s new prime minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero said Wednesday his position on Iraq will not change despite an appeal from US President George Bush.

Bush urged America’s allies to stick together in the “war on terrorism”, saying al-Qaeda wanted to defeat “freedom and democracy” in Iraq.

But in an interview Wednesday, Zapatero said he would pull out Spain’s 1,300 troops unless the UN intervenes in Iraq by 30 June.

“My position is the same. The occupation is a fiasco. There have been almost more deaths after the war than during the war,” he told Onda Cero radio station.

“The occupying forces have not allowed the United Nations to take control of the situation.”

Zaptero’s victory in the general election Sunday was widely thought to be linked to the way the government of Jose Maria Aznar handled the immediate aftermath of the attacks in which 201 people died and more than 1,600 were injured.

Aznar’s support for the US-led invasion of Iraq was thought to have provoked the terrorist attacks but he repeatedly appeared to blame ETA for the atrocity.

As the hunt for the bombers continued Wednesday, Spain continued to mark the tragedy with a series of events to remember the dead.

Several thousand people, including the Queen of Spain, gathered in Madrid’s largest cathedral Tuesday for a service to remember those killed in the attacks.

The BBC reported Bush said the goal of the “cold-blooded killers” who carried out attacks like the Madrid bombings was “to try to get the world to cower… to try to shake our will”.

He added: “It is essential that the free world remain strong and resolute and determined.”

“Al-Qaeda understands the stakes. Al-Qaeda wants us out of Iraq because al-Qaeda wants to use Iraq as an example of defeating freedom and democracy.”

US administration officials say President Bush has already called several world leaders to insist they remain on the offensive in the war against terrorism.

And White House spokesman Scott McClellan cautioned Spaniards and others against sending a “terrible message” by letting terrorists influence their elections and policies.

Subject: Spanish news