Dutch honour victims of Madrid bombings
15 March 2004
AMSTERDAM — The Netherlands commemorated the victims of the Madrid bombings on Monday as a wreath was laid at the Spanish ambassador’s residence in The Hague and trains stood still for three minutes at midday.
A Cabinet delegation, under the leadership of Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Gerrit Zalm, laid the wreath at the residence of the Spanish ambassador in The Hague on Monday morning and shortly afterwards observed a three-minute silence at midday.
Minister Zalm was representing Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende, who is visiting the US on Monday and Tuesday. Balkenende was meeting with President George Bush to discuss the global economy, Iraq and the war against terror.
Queen Beatrix was represented at the wreath-laying ceremony by the chief of the royal household and the Irish ambassador laid a wreath on behalf of all EU ambassadors in The Hague. Ireland currently holds the EU rotating presidency.
At the close of the ceremony — which was attended by about 1,200 people — the minister signed the condolence register as flags flew at half-mast on government buildings across the nation.
All trains operated by Dutch rail NS stopped for three minutes at midday after all offices, stations and trains were requested to join the commemoration. Schiphol Airport in Amsterdam, KLM and air traffic control also observed the three-minute silence.
The show of solidarity comes at the request of the European Union. Trade union federation FNV, employers association VNO-NCW and small business association MKB-Nederland had indicated they would also temporarily stop work.
In municipal offices such as Eindhoven, The Hague and Groningen, public servants assembled at midday to observe the three-minute silence and commercial radio stations also interrupted their broadcasts.
But freight transport organisation TLN and public transport company Connexxion did not urge drivers to observe the commemoration out of concerns for road safety. TLN office staff members were requested to observe the moment of silence.
The Madrid bombings left 200 dead and more than 1,000 injured. Islamic terror group Al Qaeda has since purportedly claimed responsibility in a videotape that said revenge was taken for Spain’s “collaboration with the criminals Bush and his allies”.
The devastating bombings have left Spain in a state of shock and prompted a voter backlash as the nation opted on Sunday for the Socialists, ousting the incumbent Popular Party of Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar.
Spanish Prime Minister-elect Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero has since warned he will pull all of the country’s 1,300 troops out of Iraq if the United Nations does not take command.
[Copyright Expatica News 2004]
Subject: Dutch news