Spain's new prime minister, José Luis Zapatero, says he intends to withdraw Spain's
1,300 troops from Iraq as soon as possible. The new prime minister wasted no
time in making the decision.
One day after formally taking office and hours after most of his cabinet
was sworn in, Prime Minister Zapatero announced on Spanish television Sunday
that he has ordered his new defense Minister, José Bono, to take the necessary
measures to withdraw Spanish troops deployed in Iraq in the shortest time and
with the greatest security possible.
After his Socialist Party's election last month, Mr. Zapatero said he would
pull Spanish troops from Iraq unless they come under U.N. command by June 30.
In his remarks Sunday, the prime minister explained why he was acting more
quickly. "He said that on the basis of information gathered over the past several
weeks, there was no indication that the U.N. would adopt a resolution meeting
the conditions he had set for the continued deployment of Spanish troops in
Iraq," he said.
However, Mr. Zapatero, who said he would appear before parliament on Monday
to explain his decision, was careful to underline that Spain would continue
to be a faithful member of its alliances and would meet its commitments in
carrying out international missions of peace and security.
The leader of the main opposition Popular Party, Mariano Rajoy, who has succeeded
former Prime Minister José María Aznar, said the decision was taken hastily
and without consulting parliament at a moment when efforts were being made
to reach an agreement on a resolution in the United Nations. He also said it
showed a lack of solidarity with allied nations which also had forces in Iraq.
Though polls showed the overwhelming majority of Spaniards were opposed to
the U.S.-led war in Iraq, the Aznar government sent troops there last year
after the invasion on an expressly humanitarian mission to help stabilize the
Mr. Zapatero was an incessant critic of Mr. Aznar's steadfast support of
President Bush's policies toward Iraq. With the withdrawal of Spanish troops
from Iraq he has fulfilled a major campaign pledge.
Reacting to the Spanish announcement, a U.S. official said the move was not
a surprise and that he expected Spain will implement its decision in a "coordinated,
responsible and orderly manner."