IBIZA'S General Alfredo Cardona is the head of the Spanish armed forces contingent currently in Iraq. His planned aim is for the Spanish troops to move as soon as can safely be allowed from the confines of their barracks to mix with the local population of Ad-Diwaniya. In an interview given at the “Spanish base” in the same town, General Cardona also gave prominence to the right of his soldiers to defend themselves should they be subject to armed attack. “The rules for confrontation are the same as for all members of the armed forces coalition in Iraq”, he confirmed from the backdrop of his office. “There are guidelines for each armament for every situation. They can be made stricter but never more lax. “Our objective is to help in the country's reconstruction, and always with safety permitting, we would like to establish good relations with the rest of the community”, he added. One of the main complaints from the Iraqi population is the “indifferent” and “distant” approach of the North American troops in their country who only leave their barracks for patrol purposes. Fifty-two year old General Cardona was born on the island of Ibiza and has ample experience leading overseas peace missions. He was head of the Spanish contingent that was present in Kosovo from January to June in the year 2000. Now stationed in Iraq, he has command over 1'300 men who are currently being deployed in the southern Iraqi locality of Ad-Diwaniya, one of the most peaceable areas of the country. Even so, the Spanish military have made it clear that in the case of attack “they claim the right to their own defence” whilst endeavouring to “identify the aggressor and avoid harming the local civilian population”. Up until now, the Spanish troops stationed in Ad-Diwaniya have hardly left their barracks although there have been excursions to the town's markets to take stock of local produce. “This is one difference between our approach and that of the North Americans” commented the General, who aspires to Spain and its army having an acceptable face in Iraq. In order to avoid incidents caused by misunderstanding, the Spanish troops have been schooled in the traditions and peculiarities of Iraq. All soldiers have been supplied with an “Area Manual” describing the principles of Iraqi culture. General Cardona arrived in Iraq at the beginning of August with the vanguard of the Spanish armed forces contingent. Their remit was to recommission barracks originally used by the now defunct Iraqi army. Since his arrival, the General has made a point of making contact with local authorities in Ad-Diwaniya and with the Polish armed forces with whom he shares command. “I introduced myself to the governor and religious leaders of the town and I have the intention of doing the same with local tribal chiefs and political leaders. I have made it clear that we are a neutral, peace-keeping force”, said the General. Last Saturday, at least nine people received gunshot wounds when the Governor's bodyguard fired to disperse a demonstration held to protest against him. Ad-Diwaniya is one of the most trouble-free towns in Iraq but like everywhere else in that country at the moment, it suffers from serious problems of unemployment, poor infrastructure, and above all, lack of electricity, water and gas. “I have commissioned a technical report in order to know what the current situation is. We would like to use our expertise to help with issues such as electricity supply. Furthermore, the Iraqis themselves have asked us to lend a hand with coping with lawlessness” explained General Cardona. Another step in the public relations exercise, he confirmed, was to arrange the “twinning” of the two Iraqi towns of Ad-Diwaniya and Nayef which fall under the Spanish mandate, with two towns in Spain. “We have to take a look at the legacy of the United States in Iraq and see what other projects can be put in place” in the field of construction, he added. It is planned that the command of Ad-Diwaniya will be passed to Spain at the beginning of September following the completion of troop deployment.

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