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News :: DNC
Spain's PM-elect pledges withdrawal from Iraq, slams Bush
15 Mar 2004
Some protesters had shouted "Aznar: your war, our dead" as he cast his vote. The spanish people have spoken. In spontaneous protest they filled the streets and spoke their hearts...all the way to the voting booth where they threw Aznar out. WE CAN DO THIS TOO. COALITION OF THE WILLING IS DOWN TO TWO. BLAIR WILL BE THROWN OUT IN JULY. BUSH/KERRY OUT IN NOVEMEBER. TELL THE DNC WE CAN ACCEPT NO ONE BUT KUCINICH. NO MORE WAR!
Spain's PM-elect pledges withdrawal from Iraq, slams Bush
Agence France Presse

MADRID : In a clear break with politics of the government his party defeated, Spain's leader-in-waiting, Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, vowed to withdraw troops from Iraq and criticised US President George W. Bush for last year's Iraq campaign.

"The war in Iraq was a disaster, the occupation of Iraq is a disaster," Zapatero, 43, told Cadena Ser radio.

Socialist Party (PSOE) leader and future prime minister Zapatero vowed to keep his pre-election pledge that barring new developments in Iraq before June 30 -- the date the United States has promised to hand power over to an Iraqi provisional government -- Spain's 1,300 troops in Iraq "will return home".

Zapatero was speaking just hours after the PSOE dealt the conservative Popular Party (PP) of outgoing Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar a surprise defeat in general elections coloured by last Thursday's bombings of crowded Madrid commuter trains that killed 200 people and wounded 1,500.

The country's general state of shock and fears of further attacks, coupled with uncertainty as to who to blame for the attacks, combined to depress the stock market both in Spain and across major foreign markets as share prices plunged.

Analysts said the bombings had combined with concerns that a new government might abandon economic reforms put into effect during eight years of conservative rule in Spain to derail markets amid all the uncertainty.

An ongoing investigation into the attacks has found growing evidence they were carried out by Islamic extremists linked to Al-Qaeda as punishment for Spain's participation in the invasion and occupation of Iraq.

An undersecretary in the US Department of Homeland Security, Asa Hutchinson, told NBC television Monday: "I'm satisfied that there is an Al-Qaeda connection."

Spanish police are holding five men arrested Saturday evening in connection with the blasts.

Under Spain's anti-terrorist laws, they have until Thursday to charge or release the five, three Moroccans and two Indians.

Five suspects -- three Moroccans and two Indians -- were being held in connection to the bombings. One of the Moroccans, Jamal Zougam, figured on a list of suspected members of an Al-Qaeda cell in Spain.

Spain's Socialists won 43 percent of the ballots Sunday to 38 percent for the PP, which saw its vote slump Sunday given almost blanket public opposition to the Iraq war.

Turnout was a high 77 percent, reflecting the strong emotions in the aftermath of the attacks.

Many voters had expressed anger at Aznar, who said before the vote he was retiring after the elections.

Some protesters had shouted "Aznar: your war, our dead" as he cast his vote.

News that Zapatero intended to withdraw troops from Iraq sparked concern among countries who have troops serving there.

An analyst at London's Royal Institute of International Affairs, Chris Wright, said a pullout of Spain's 1,300-strong contingent could be "an indication perhaps that the coalition is beginning to weaken, possibly unravel".

Spain's contingent, the sixth-largest in Iraq, has suffered 11 deaths, including those of seven intelligence agents ambushed in November.

Zapatero, calling last year's invasion an "error," said that Bush and British Prime Minister Tony Blair, both of whom are facing elections in coming months, need to engage in "self-criticism" over the affair.

"You can't bomb a people" over a perceived threat, Zapatero said in comments coming five days before the first anniversary of the March 20 launch of the war.

"You can't organise a war on the basis of lies," he said, alluding to Bush's and Blair's insistence the war was justified by their belief -- so far unfounded -- that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction which posed an imminent threat.

The head of the EU executive arm, European Commission chief Romano Prodi, agreed, in an interview published by Italy's La Stampa newspaper.

"It is clear that using force is not the answer to resolving the conflict with terrorists," Prodi said.

A spokesman for Blair meanwhile said the British leader had phoned Zapatero for a "warm and friendly" chat and that they were to meet in about six weeks' time, when Zapatero takes office.

A spokesman for President Bush also phoned to congratulate Zapatero on his win.

"Both leaders said that they look forward to working together particularly to fight terrorism," White House spokesman Scott McClellan said.

"We still do not know who is responsible," McClellan added, regarding Thursday's bombings.

The investigation into the Madrid blasts suggested Al-Qaeda may have made good on a threat issued October 18 by its leader Osama bin Laden that Spain, Australia, Britain, Italy and other US allies would be targeted for attacks.

Spanish authorities were still working Monday evening to authenticate a video found in a Madrid rubbish bin late Saturday in which a man claiming to be Al-Qaeda's spokesman in Europe said the Islamic radical network was responsible.

"We claim responsibility for what happened in Madrid exactly two and a half years after the attacks in New York and Washington," said the man, speaking Arabic with a Moroccan accent and calling himself "Al-Qaeda's military spokesman in Europe".

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