Tuesday, March 16, 2004

Socialist PM pledges troop pullout from Iraq - would PM Latham do the same?: "Spain's conservative party has been swept from power after eight years, on a wave of anger and resentment against its handling of Madrid's al-Qaeda linked train bombings and support for the US war in Iraq. The country's 34.5 million voters turned against the conservatives in the aftermath of Thursday's terrorist assault, which authorities believe was carried out by an al-Qaeda cell, known as Abu Dahdah, which has links to the September 11 attacks in New York.

"The incoming socialist prime minister, Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, was narrowly trailing in opinion polls until the bombings, which left 200 commuters dead and more than 1400 injured. But the conservatives' handling of the crisis and claims they were covering up al-Qaeda's involvement brought millions of young Spaniards out to vote, many for the first time. The turnout was put at 77.4 per cent, the highest in more than 20 years. Mr Zapatero, whose party won almost 43 per cent of vote, has promised to pull Spanish troops out of Iraq in June, in effect ending the country's close collaboration with the US and Britain in the war and occupion."

"The conservative Popular Party under Jose Maria Aznar and his chosen successor, Mariano Rajoy, had been tipped to win the election on the strength of the Government's healthy economic record and its popular crackdown of the Basque separatist group ETA, despite overwhelming opposition to its role in Iraq."

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