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Zapatero in embarrassing Iraq ‘merit’ medal row

2 June 2004

MADRID – The Spanish prime minister has been dragged into an embarrassing political  row after the Defence Minister handed back a medal he was given for his role in withdrawing troops from Iraq, it emerged Wednesday.

José Bono sent a letter to the prime minister José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero saying he would give back the Cross of Military Merit, according to sources close to the minister.

The move comes after Bono was heavily criticised when he was given the award last week.

It was awarded by Zapatero for Bono’s “merits” as a minister, including his role in the withdrawal of Spanish troops from Iraq.

But Opposition political figures said Bono should not have received the award only six weeks after taking over as Defence Minister.

Zapatero granted the award to all those who helped in the withdrawal of Spanish troops from Iraq.

Three generals also received the same medal during a ceremony in Madrid.

Mariano Rajoy, head of the opposition Popular Party, criticised the award and asked Bono if he would show a “sense of modesty and give it back”.

Other smaller parties from all political spectrums criticised the medal award as “illogical” and “absurd”.

They also said it was far to soon to be handing out medals.

The row hotted up when Alfonso Guerra, a senior Socialist party figure, criticised the award Wednesday.

In a television interview, he said: “The affair of the medal happened too fast. Are you going to decorate members of the government for doing their jobs?”   

Zapatero accepted the decision of Bono to hand back the medal, which has left the prime minister in an embarrassing position.

[Copyright EFE with Expatica]

Subject: Spanish news