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Thousands March to Protest New Spanish Prime Minister - 2004-03-17


Nearly four thousand supporters of outgoing Spanish Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar have marched in Madrid to protest the rival Socialist Party's victory in Sunday's elections.

The protesters today (Wednesday) voiced criticism of Prime Minister-elect Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, who has promised to withdraw Spanish troops from Iraq.

Some accused Mr. Zapatero of exploiting last week's terrorist attacks on Madrid trains ahead of the vote, calling him the "president of al-Qaida."

Earlier today, Mr. Zapatero confirmed his plans to pull out Spanish troops by June 30th, unless coalition forces are placed under the control of the United Nations.

Mr. Zapatero announced his position in campaigning last week, following Thursday's train bombings, which killed more than 200 people.

Meanwhile, Spain's outgoing interior minister says the country is taking additional security measures to defend against what he called the "ongoing terrorist threat."

Angel Acebes also said the investigation into last week's bombings has entered what he called a "decisive phase," but he declined to offer details.

A team of Moroccan government agents is in Spain to help with the search for five Moroccans suspected of involvement in the attack.

information for this report is provided by AP and Reuters.

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