Spain holds firm in face of NATO calls for more troops

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Spain will not increase its forces in Afghanistan despite pressure from NATO allies.

4 April 2008

BUCHAREST - Spain remained adamant on Thursday that it will not increase its forces in Afghanistan despite pressure from NATO allies to contribute more to peacekeeping efforts in the Central Asian state.

Spain's contribution of around 750 soldiers is "sufficient," prime minister José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero told reporters yesterday in a press conference on the sidelines of a NATO summit in Bucharest.

His comments followed repeated statements from Cabinet ministers in recent days rejecting calls for Spain to send more forces to Afghanistan or vary its rules of engagement that have so far kept Spanish troops off the front line and out of the most dangerous missions.

Nonetheless, more than 80 Spaniards have died as a result of their involvement in Afghan peacekeeping operations, most of them in aviation accidents.

However, in refusing to send more troops, Madrid is going against a broad consensus among NATO members to reinforce the Afghan mission.
French President Nicolas Sarkozy announced yesterday that he will send an additional 700 troops to war-torn southern Afghanistan, adding to the 1,400 French troops already there, while Germany is expected to increase its forces in the north.

Finally, the Bucharest summit ended yesterday without what would have been the first-ever formal meeting between Zapatero and US President George W. Bush taking place. The two merely exchanged greetings on the opening day.

[El Pais / Miguel Gonzalez / Expatica]

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