MADRID, Spain (AP) — Spain’s incoming prime minister
pledged yesterday to bring Spanish troops home from Iraq unless the
United Nations takes control there, harshly criticizing the
U.S.-led war even as he promised to maintain good relations with
Washington.

A day after his Socialists swept Spain’s ruling
conservatives from power in elections overshadowed by terrorist
bombings, Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero also promised to lead a more
pro-European government that would restore “magnificent
relations” with France and Germany — which unlike
Spain’s outgoing government both opposed the Iraq war.

In a surprise defeat, Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar’s
conservatives on Sunday became the first government that backed
Washington in Iraq to be voted from office.

The election was held amid charges that Aznar made Spain a
target for terrorists by supporting the war, and that his
government concealed possible connections between the attack and
Islamic terrorists for political gain. Thursday’s train
bombings — the worst terrorist attacks in Spain’s
history — killed 200 people and wounded some 1,500.

Zapatero campaigned on a pledge to order Spain’s 1,300
troops home. He made clear yesterday that he is prepared to fulfill
it.

“I have said clearly in recent months that, unless there
is a change in that the United Nations take control and the
occupiers give up political control, the Spanish troops will come
back, and the limit for their presence there is June 30,”
Zapatero told a news conference. He described Spain’s
decision to commit peacekeepers to Iraq as “an
error.”

The U.N. Security Council has authorized the current
multinational force in which Spain is participating. But there has
been no talk of turning that force, which is led by the United
States, into a U.N.-controlled peacekeeping force.

President Bush called Aznar yesterday to thank him for his
“support, his friendship and his strong leadership,”
White House press secretary Scott McClellan said. Bush then called
Zapatero. “The two leaders both said they look forward to
working together, particularly on our shared commitment to
combating terrorism,” McClellan said.

Zapatero promised to maintain “cordial” relations
with Washington, but he had harsh words for the war in Iraq and the
U.S.-led occupation. “It divided more than it united, there
were no reasons for it. Time has shown that the arguments for it
lacked credibility and the occupation has been managed
badly,” he said.

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