Spanish leader orders troops out of Iraq

The prime minister ordered Spanish troops pulled out of Iraq as
soon as possible yesterday, fulfilling a campaign pledge to a
nation still recovering from terrorist bombings that al-Qaida
militants said were reprisal for Spain’s support of the

The new Socialist prime minister issued the abrupt recall just
hours after his government was sworn in, saying there was no sign
the United States would meet his demands for staying in Iraq
— U.N. control of the postwar occupation.

Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero’s party won the March 14
general election amid allegations that outgoing Prime Minister Jose
Maria Aznar had provoked commuter-train terrorist bombings, that
killed 191 people three days earlier, by backing the war in Iraq.
Zapatero pledged to remove Spanish troops in his winning campaign.
But his announcement — a setback for the United States
— was a bombshell, coming just hours after his government was
sworn in, and as his foreign minister planned to travel to
Washington to discuss the dispute.

In a five-minute address at the Moncloa Palace, Zapatero said he
had ordered Defense Minister Jose Bono to “do what is
necessary for the Spanish troops stationed in Iraq to return home
in the shortest time possible.”


PRISTINA, Serbia-Montenegro

Investigators look into deaths of U.S.

Investigators searched for evidence and interviewed eyewitnesses
yesterday in an attempt to find out why a Jordanian U.N. police
officer opened fire on U.S. correctional officers in Kosovo,
killing two.

The Jordanian officer was also killed in the shootout Saturday
at the U.N.-run prison in the northern town of Kosovska

The shooting was the latest shock for the U.N. mission in the
province, which is still grappling with the fallout from violent
clashes last month between ethnic Albanians and Serbs that killed
19 and injured more than 900 in Kosovska Mitrovica.

“The shooting struck a huge blow at the very idea of
peacekeeping,” said Alex Anderson, the Kosovo project
director of International Crisis Group, a Brussels-based
think-tank. It will “affect the perception of the
peacekeepers among the population.”

In Belgrade, the Serbian Orthodox Church said the shooting
“proves that the U.N. does not control the



Rice: Bush did not order Iraq war in Jan.

National security adviser Condoleezza Rice forcefully disputed
yesterday an assertion that President Bush decided in early January
2003 to invade Iraq, three months before official accounts say the
decision was made.

The statement, in Washington Post reporter Bob Woodward’s
new book about the run-up to war, is “simply not, not
right,” Rice said.

Bush said at a prime-time news conference on March 6 that a U.N.
Security Council resolution authorizing action was days away. Ten
days later, having failed to win approval, the resolution was
withdrawn, and the assault began March 20.

Rice did not deny the private conversation between her and Bush
just after New Year’s Day in which Woodward said the decision was
made, but she said the writer had misinterpreted what was said.



Slovakia elects PM’s former ally president

A one-time ally of Slovakia’s authoritarian ex-prime
minister won a presidential runoff election, defeating his former
mentor to lead the country into the European Union, preliminary
results showed yesterday.

With all districts counted, lawyer Ivan Gasparovic beat Prime
Minister Vladimir Meciar with 60 percent, or about 1 million, of
the votes, the Central Election Commission said. Turnout was at
43.5 percent. “I thank all who have helped me to reach this
result,” Gasparovic said at his election headquarters.
“I hope that I will be able to show them my gratitude through
my work.”

Meciar, 61, is still remembered for his authoritarian leadership
style, while Gasparovic, 63, is largely known for his former
loyalty to Meciar.

The presidency has symbolic importance as Slovakia joins the EU
on May 1.


BAIKONUR, Kazakhstan

U.S. astronaut takes off for space station

A Russian rocket roared into space today carrying an American, a
Russian and a Dutch man to the international space station on the
third manned mission since the halt of the U.S. shuttle

American Michael Fincke, Russian Gennady Padalka and Andre
Kuipers of the Netherlands, representing the European Space Agency,
were to spend two days en route to the ISS aboard the spacecraft.
The capsule is the only means to get to the orbital outpost since
the suspension of U.S. space shuttle flights following the 2003
Columbia disaster.

— Compiled from Daily wire reports

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