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Spais new leader says troops will leave iraq

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Spain's Incoming Leader Says Troops Will Leave Iraq (Update1)
March 15 (Bloomberg) -- Spain's 1,300 soldiers in the U.S.- led coalition in Iraq will be withdrawn, said Prime Minister- elect Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, who had called for a greater role for the United Nations in the country.

``The war in Iraq was a disaster, the occupation of Iraq is a disaster,'' Zapatero, 43, told Spain's Cadena Ser radio station today. U.S. President George W. Bush and U.K. Prime Minister Tony Blair ``will have to work on reflection and self-criticism to ensure that things like this never happen again,'' he said.

Zapatero, whose Socialists ousted the ruling Popular Party in yesterday's elections, had pledged in his campaign to remove the troops in the absence of a UN mandate addressing postwar Iraq. He didn't specify that condition in today's comments, saying only he sees ``no signs of change'' before the coalition's planned handover of power to Iraqis by June 30.

Ten members of the Spanish contingent in Iraq have been killed.

The Socialists' upset victory came as Spaniards tried to comprehend the killing of 200 people in Thursday's bombings of commuter trains in Madrid in an attack linked to al-Qaeda. The Socialists won 164 seats in the 350-seat congress, ending the eight-year rule of the Popular Party of outgoing Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar, 51, who supported the U.S. invasion of Iraq.

Party Blamed ETA

Mariano Rajoy led the Popular Party into the elections. Rajoy, 48, first blamed the Basque terrorist group ETA for the bombings. As evidence mounted that al-Qaeda may have been behind the attack, thousands of Spaniards protested outside PP offices across the country, demanding information before the vote and shouting opposition to the government's support for the Iraq war.

``You can't start a war on the basis of lies,'' Zapatero told the radio station. ``Wars such as those which have occurred in Iraq only allow hatred, violence and terror to proliferate.''

The conflict was opposed by as many as 90 percent of Spaniards, opinion polls showed. Aznar backed the U.S. over Iraq in the UN Security Council and in the European Union, and sent troops to help occupy the country after Baghdad's fall in April.

Final opinion polls on the elections, published three days before the bombing, showed that Rajoy's party would win.

`Dramatic Implications'

``Al-Qaeda or its affiliates have toppled a democratic government for the first time,'' said Bernard Walschots, market economist in Utrecht at Rabobank Nederland, in a note to investors today. ``This may have dramatic implications for the Western democracies.'' Rabobank is the third-largest Dutch bank.

People across Europe observed three minutes of silence at noon Madrid time to honor the victims of the bombings.

European Commission President Romano Prodi told the Italian newspaper La Stampa in an interview today that all of Europe ``felt under attack'' as a result of the blasts, which also injured almost 1,500 people.

``We must remember that it has been a year since the war in Iraq started,'' Prodi told the paper. ``Terrorism is infinitely more powerful than a year ago.''

German's government today said the Madrid bombings won't cause it to withdraw its troops from the U.S.-led coalition in Afghanistan, and it will uphold its commitment to train Iraqi police, Agence France-Presse reported, citing the chief government spokesman, Bela Anda.

U.K.'s Straw

U.K. Foreign Secretary Jack Straw told the British Broadcasting Corp. today that the bombings ``may have swung the votes'' in Spain's elections. He dismissed the idea that Spain's support of the war in Iraq was a factor in defeating Aznar's party or that it had made the country more vulnerable to attacks.

``No one should get the idea that somehow if you are a country that was opposed to the military action in Iraq, you are less of a target,'' Straw said, adding that Al-Qaeda ``has been going for at least 11 years.''

The U.K. is the closest ally of the U.S. in Iraq. Today, the British Transport Police said they are stepping up patrols on London's subway system as part of a continuing campaign against terrorism. Undercover police officers from an anti-terrorism unit will be used for the first time, the transport police said in an e-mailed statement.

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