NEW SPANISH PM: I'LL BRING TROOPS HOME
Mar 15 2004
By Steve Purcell
New Spanish Prime Minister Jose Zapatero today declared that he wants to withdraw all 1,300 Spanish troops from Iraq.
The socialist leader gained an unexpected victory over Jose Maria Aznar yesterday in a dramatic general election. Aznar's party was toppled from power as millions of Spaniards went to the polls in the aftermath of the Madrid bombings.
In his first post-victory interview with Spanish radio, Mr Zapatero said there would be widespread political consultation. But he added: "Spainish troops in Iraq will come home."
Britain's Prime Minister Tony Blair was today speaking to Mr Zapatero to congratulate him on the win. But Downing Street were also quick to deny that Britain's backing for the conflict in Iraq made the country any greater a target for al Qaida terrorists
Support for Aznar's centre-right Popular Party slumped in a backlash against Thursday's train bombings.
Spaniards had accused him of "manipulating" opinion by blaming the atrocity on Basque separatists Eta.
Voters believed an al-Qaeda claim that it carried out the attack over Spain's backing for the Iraq war - opposed by 90 per cent there.
Zapatero, 43, arrived in parliament at 26 and was elected party leader in July 2000. Much like Tony Blair, he set about modernising the Socialists.
Pre-election polls backed Aznar. He had said before yesterday's vote he would be standing down as PM.
Aznar was accused of withholding information on the bomb hunt. The government knew blaming Eta would unify the electorate.
The Socialists will withdraw 1,300 troops from Iraq if the UN does not take control by June 30. Spanish banker Henrik Lumholdt said the bombs were a "raw nerve" for voters.