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Spain to Withdraw Iraq Troops as Soon as Possible
VOA News
18 Apr 2004, 18:46 UTC

In a surprise announcement Spain's prime minister has said he plans to withdraw Spanish troops from Iraq as soon as possible.

Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero said on Spanish television Sunday he has given orders for the removal of Spain's 1,300 troops.

Earlier, Mr. Zapatero had said Spain's troops would be withdrawn if the United Nations does not take charge in Iraq by June 30, the date designated for the changeover of power from the U.S.-led coalition to an Iraqi-led interim government.

Mr. Zapatero said according to the information he has, it is not likely a U.N. resolution will be passed that will satisfy Spain's terms to stay in Iraq.

Mr. Zapatero was confirmed as prime minister on Friday. He won the post last month, three days after a series of train bombings in Madrid killed 191 people and injured more than 1,500 more. Analysts say Mr. Zapatero's party scored its surprise win in the March 14 elections because many voters blamed the train bombings on the outgoing government's support for the war in Iraq.

On Thursday Mr. Zapatero told parliament he plans to make fighting terrorism a priority. Spain is now holding 21 suspects in the train-bombing case.

On Friday, a Bosnian suspect Sanel Sjekirica flew to Spain from Sweden to turn himself in to police. Earlier, Mr. Sjekirica said in a radio interview he was eager to tell Spanish authorities that he had nothing to do with the bombings, but simply had once briefly shared an apartment with one of the suspects.

Spanish officials say they arrested three other suspects Thursday - a Saudi, an Egyptian and another Moroccan. Interior Minister Angel Acebes says the men have ties with bombing suspects already in custody.

Some information for this report provided by AFP and AP.

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