First meeting for Zapatero, Obama after Kosovo row

30th March 2009, Comments 0 comments

Zapatero will meet US President Barack Obama for the first time on the sidelines of the US-EU summit in Prague in April.

MADRID – Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, whose decision to pull troops out of Kosovo upset Washington, will meet US President Barack Obama for the first time on 5 April, his office said Sunday.

Zapatero, who never held a formal meeting with former US president George W Bush, will meet with Obama on the sidelines of the US-European Union summit in Prague.

"Of course, I await with much interest, enormous interest, the meeting with President Obama, who represents great hope for everybody," Zapatero said Saturday during a summit of left-of-centre leaders in Chile.

"I expressed this to (US Vice President) Joe Biden," Zapatero said at the summit in Vina del Mar, according to quotes posted on the government's website Sunday.

Relations between Zapatero's Socialist government and Bush's Republican administration were strained after Madrid's decision to pull its troops from Iraq and its rapprochement with Cuba.

The Spanish government recently surprised Obama's Democratic administration when it announced on 19 March that it would withdraw its 630 troops from the NATO-led KFOR force in Kosovo.

Spanish Foreign Minister Miguel Angel Moratinos said last week he had called US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to explain Madrid's decision.

Spain is one of five European Union countries that does not recognise Kosovo's move to break away from Serbia on 17 February last year, but pressure is also mounting on NATO allies to muster troops for Afghanistan.

AFP / Expatica

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