Zapatero turns down Bush request

Spain's prime minister-elect has rejected an appeal by US President George Bush to keep Spanish troops in Iraq.

    Zapatero has termed the Iraq invasion a fiasco

    Spanish elections winner Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero reiterated that he would keep a pledge to pull his country's troops out of Iraq.


    "I will listen to Mr Bush but my position is very clear and very firm," Zapatero told radio Onda Cero. "The occupation [of Iraq] is a fiasco."


    Zapatero said on Monday, the day after his Socialist party dealt a surprise election defeat to the pro-Bush Popular party, that he would withraw Spain's 1300 troops unless a United Nations force takes over here.


    New resolution


    Bush responded by urging US allies to keep their troops in Iraq, as officials in Washington suggested they could propose a new UN resolution that would enable Spanish forces to stay.


    Most US allies said after Zapatero's bombshell that they would keep their forces in Iraq.


    "I will listen to Mr Bush but my position is very clear and very firm"

    Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero,
    prime minister-elect, Spain

    Italy will not follow the incoming Spanish government's example and pull its troops out, Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini said on Wednesday during a visit to Israel.


    "The world must react and stay unified, show absolute cohesion in the face of terrorism. It does not mean at all that Italian troops in Iraq will leave and not complete their peace mission," Frattini said.


    But Hungarian Defence Minister Ferenc Juhasz has scrapped a planned visit to Iraq after the US military said it could not guarantee his security, a defence spokesman in Budapest said on Wednesday.


    Juhasz was due to visit the 300 Hungarian troops, mostly logistics experts, who are stationed in Hilla, south of Baghdad, on Saturday, the anniversary of the start of the US-led invasion.



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