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Spain to Withdraw Iraq Troops As Soon As Possible - 2004-04-19


Spain's prime minister says 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 13-hundred troops.

News reports quote Spanish government sources as saying the pull out could take as long as two months, but did not say when the withdrawal would start.

Mr. Zapatero has been saying he would bring Spanish troops home if the United Nations does not take charge of military operations in Iraq by June 30th -- the date the an Iraqi-led interim government is scheduled to take power.

Mr. Zapatero said according to his information, a U.N. resolution on Iraq is unlikely to satisfy Spain's terms to stay in Iraq. But he said Spain will still carry out its international missions of peace and security.

A White House spokesman tells VOA it will continue to cooperate closely with Spain in the war in terrorism and hopes its withdrawal from Iraq will be carried out in a coordinated and responsible manner.

Spain's parliament confirmed Mr. Zapatero as prime minister on Friday. He was elected three days after the March 11th train bombings in Madrid killed 191 people.

Political analysts say Mr. Zapatero won because many voters blamed the train bombings on the old government's support for the war in Iraq.

Information for this report is provided by AFP and Reuters.

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