Leader causes diplomatc storm over his comments regarding conflict

Matas, a national minister who is expected to stand against Antich in the next local elections this summer, said that the Balearic leader's comments were just a clear case of electioneering and ill-timed. “The local authorities should be very prudent and act with responsibiity especially when dealing with such delicate issues,” said Matas. The minister for the environment said that such issues had little to do with the Balearic government. Antich has already spoken out against any possible conflict with Iraq and his comments on Friday night against the presence of U.S. and British warships have caused a diplomatic storm. It appears more than likely that the U.S. Navy and possibly the Royal Navy will use the port of Palma as a base for its ships so that crews can go on leave and recuperate if there is any conflict with Iraq. Both navies say that Palma is one of the most popular liberty ports in the Mediterranean. As was reported in the Bulletin yesterday, if war does break out U.S. B52 bombers are expected to refuel over the Balearics, like they did during the last Gulf war. Spanish Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar has said that he will allow U.S. bases in Spain to be used for any attack on Iraq. U.S. air force refueling aircraft based in Spain would join up with the bombers over Balearic skies. Matas said that the Spanish government hoped that the conflict with Iraq could be resolved by the United Nations and said that he hoped war could be averted. About two dozen people staged an anti-war protest outside the offices of the U.S. Consular Agent on Friday night. There is a strong anti-war feeling in the Balearics at the moment with most of the local government opposing any action against Iraq. Many members of Antich's cabinet have joined protest marches which have taken place over recent weeks. Two years ago at least two local government ministers took part in protest actions against U.S. nuclear warships docking in the port of Palma. On that occasion Antich wrote to the Spanish government appealing for a ban on nuclear vessels in the local port. His appeal was dismissed. Over recent years the number of U.S. warships visiting Palma has fallen considerably.


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