SPAIN'S new leader-elect Jose Luis Zapatero made a bold announcement just hours after his election victory that he would be pulling Spain's troops back from Iraq. As all the columnists on this newspaper have pointed out it was an election pledge. Zapatero has effectively said that Spain is taking its bat and ball and going home. The socialist party did not agree with the war. But although a day is a long time in Spanish politics try telling that to the people of Iraq who have come to expect the reassuring security given by Spain's 1'000 troops. They have also received plenty of praise from their British and American counterparts. People will say that 1'000 troops is not a lot. Britain controls much of the South of the country but has only deployed 10'000 troops. So in some ways I believe that Spain has an obligation to Iraq. The outgoing Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar was a firm supporter of the war and gave his full backing to Bush and Blair. What's done is done but Spain does still have a responsibility for its past deeds. Zapatero has said that he will pull back the troops unless the United Nations is given a far greater role. He knows this is not going to happen. The people of Iraq need as much help and support as possible at the moment if they are going to rebuild their country and install democracy and remove the final crumbs of Saddam's evil regime. Sr. Zapatero should realise that his government has much wider responsibilities. I doubt that many Iraqis follow Spanish politics and I am sure that they are probably bewildered at what is going on. Zapatero has rightly said that Iraq is a complete mess and his first major foreign policy move will do nothing to help the suffering of Iraq. It is a mess but as most people agree in months and years to come things will improve. But Spain will not see it.
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