Spain to pull troops out of Iraq in '15 days': Egyptian official
Spain's Foreign Minister Miguel Angel Moratinos has informed Egyptian counterpart Ahmed Maher that Spain plans to pull its troops out of Iraq "within 15 days", according to a foreign ministry official in the Egyptian capital, Cairo.
"Mr Moratinos informed Ahmed Maher of the intention of the new head of the Spanish government to announce the withdrawal within 15 days of Spanish troops from Iraq," the official said in a statement distributed to the press.
The Spanish foreign minister told his Egyptian counterpart he wanted Egypt "to be the first country to know of this decision, after the United States which has already been made aware", he said.
Earlier, new Spanish Prime Minister Spain Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero said Spain would withdraw its troops from Iraq "as soon as possible" as his government's conditions for maintaining the contingent in Iraq appeared unlikely to be fulfilled.
Mr Zapatero had vowed to pull Spanish troops from Iraq unless they come under UN command by June 30 when their mandate expires.
"The Spanish troops in Iraq will be withdrawn as soon as possible and with maximum security," Mr Zapatero told Spanish television a day after formally taking office.
He says "it does not look like a UN resolution will match the content" of the Spanish demands on Iraq.
US President George W Bush and British Prime Minister Tony Blair have pledged to give the United Nations a central role in the transfer of power to the Iraqi interim government, planned for June 30.
The move had been seen as a way to keep countries like Spain on board with the US-led coalition, despite a recent surge in violence and hostage-taking in Iraq.
His conservative predecessor, Jose Maria Aznar, sent 1,300 troops to serve as part of the US-led coalition in Iraq in August 2003, in a move which led to huge protests across Spain.
Mr Aznar's dogged pro-US stance over Iraq, coupled with his early insistence that Basque militants and not Islamic extremists carried out the March 11 Madrid train bombings which killed 191 people in Spain's worst terrorist attack, helped swing the March 14 election to the Socialists.