» Monday, March 15, 2004

Spain/PM Elect Zapatero

The PMOS informed journalists that the Prime Minister had also had a fifteen-minute telephone conversation with Prime Minister-elect Zapatero this afternoon. The conversation had been warm and friendly. They had agreed to meet once Mr Zapatero formally took office. The timescale for that – possibly anything up to six weeks – would depend on coalition negotiations between the Spanish parties. Asked if the Prime Minister had met Mr Zapatero before, the PMOS said that Mr Zapatero had visited Downing Street in October 2002 after becoming leader of his party. Asked if the issue of troops in Iraq had been discussed, the PMOS said that they had had a wide-ranging discussion. He had no intention of briefing on it in detail other than to say that it had been warm and friendly. Asked to confirm reports that Mr Zapatero had asked the Prime Minister for a meeting before the Spanish elections but the Prime Minister had turned him down, the PMOS said he was not aware that was the case.

Asked if the Prime Minister would agree that the result of the Spanish elections showed that it was perfectly possible for terrorists to interfere in electoral processes, the PMOS said that an electoral process was an electoral process. We accepted the outcome of the elections in Spain at the weekend. We were very clear about the importance of uniting in the face of terrorism. It was therefore encouraging that Mr Zapatero had said that his number one policy priority was countering terrorism. It was no secret that that the Prime Minister and Prime Minister-elect disagreed over the war in Iraq. However, the important thing was to work together to make sure that Iraq achieved the democracy and prosperity that we hoped it would. Put to him that the Madrid bombings showed that terrorism worked, the PMOS said that it wasn’t his job to act as a commentator on the Spanish elections. However, it was important to be clear that we were absolutely united in standing against terrorism and showing that it did not work. That had been our position before the Madrid attacks, and even before the Iraq war. It was important for people to recognise the fact that Al Qaida had not emerged last year after the conflict had ended. The group had come to prominence following a bomb attack on the World Trade Centre in 1993.

Asked if any further information had to come to light to prove that Al Qaida had been responsible for the bombings in Madrid last week, the PMOS said we accepted the fact that the indicators were pointing in that direction. However, we still did not know for certain – and it would be wrong of us to pretend that we did. Asked why the UK had signed a UN Resolution last week condemning ETA for the attacks in Madrid, the PMOS said that he was not aware of the detail of the Resolution in question. However, as we had said last week, our assessment would be informed by the judgements made by the Spanish authorities. We had no reason to disagree with them. That position had not changed.

Asked again if the Prime Minister would support Germany’s proposal to hold an EU security summit, the PMOS said that he was not aware of any specific proposal at this point. Were one to be suggested, we would obviously consider the idea very carefully.

Briefing took place at 15:45 | Search for related news

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