28 June 2004
ISTANBUL — Spanish prime minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero ruled out Monday playing any role in Iraq, just hours after the Nato alliance promised to help train the Iraqi army to calm the violence-wracked country.
Speaking at the Nato conference in the Turkish city, Zapatero said: “The Spanish government does not foresee any participation in the process under way in Iraq, and in no circumstances any participation on Iraqi territory.”
He was replying to a question on whether Spain would help train the fledgling Iraqi army.
Earlier, Zapatero and President George W. Bush had a fleeting meeting of just seen minutes to exchange views.
The short conversation came as it was announced that power would be transferred to the new sovereign Iraqi government two days ahead of schedule.
The sovereign Iraqi government, agreed by a UN vote earlier this year, was due to take over power from the occupying forces of the United States and Britain on 30 June.
The details of the meeting between Bush and Zapatero were not disclosed Monday.
The two simply asked each other – in Spanish – how each was before going into talks.
Relations between Spain and the US have remained cool after Zapatero withdraw the Spanish contingent from Iraq.
Meanwhile, Zapatero made a call to Nato countries fighting terrorism not to lose their “democratic soul”.
Speaking at the summit, the Socialist premier said they should avoid a “clash of civilisations”.
Zapatero also asked to strengthen multilateral cooperation between the members of the organisation.
He said that Nato should have a role in the international fight against terrorism but added that the key was “not to lose the democratic soul”.
Sources said that this was a reference to the alleged torture of prisoners carried out by US and British forces in Iraq.
Zapatero thanked other countries for their support for Spain after the Madrid terrorist attacks in which 192 people died and more than 1,500 people were injured.
But he said terrorism would not be defeated “simply with military operations”.
He stressed the importance of sharing information between intelligence services and the police.
Zapatero said Spain had experienced over 30 years of terrorism in which 1,200 people had been killed.
Zapatero stressed that Spain is to “reinforce its participation in the peacekeeping operation in Afghanistan”.
But he did not give any more details.
[Copyright EFE with Expatica]
Subject: Spanish news