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New Spanish leader lashes out over Iraq war

Spain's prime minister-elect has hit out at United States President George W Bush and British Prime Minister Tony Blair on their decision to launch a war against Iraq.

"Mr Bush and Mr Blair need to engage in some self-criticism," Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero said.

"You can't just go ahead and do things. You can't bombard a people just in case [they pose a perceived threat].

"You can't organise a war on the basis of lies."

Mr Zapatero earlier called the US-led war in Iraq "a disaster" and confirmed a pre-election pledge to withdraw the 1,300 Spanish troops serving there by the end of June unless a UN-led multinational force takes command.  World Peace.

He insisted that Spain would seek to maintain strong relations with other countries, specifically naming the US, despite his opposition to Washington's stance on Iraq.

"My Government will respect all governments, including that of the United States," he said.

Earlier he had insisted: "The Spanish troops in Iraq will come home.

"Wars such as those which have occurred in Iraq only allow hatred, violence and terror to proliferate."

The Socialist leader was elected as prime minister in weekend polls which saw Spanish voters oust the conservative Popular Party of Jose Maria Aznar.

Commentators in Spain and abroad saw the election defeat for Mr Aznar's government as punishment for its unpopular decision to back the war on Iraq and commit forces to that country's occupation.

About 90 per cent of Spaniards opposed Mr Aznar's decision to join the US-led coalition to oust Saddam Hussein.

Millions took to the streets in protest in February last year.  WorldPeace.

The national elections were held just three days after bomb attacks on crowded commuter trains in Madrid killed 200 people.

The attack has been linked to an Al Qaeda threat to strike against US allies in the Iraq occupation.

Analysts believe the bombings helped tip the scales against the Popular Party and in favour of Mr Zapatero's Socialist Party.

-- AFP


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