Bush calls Spain's new PM-elect

March 15, 2004 at 12:56 PM
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WASHINGTON, March 15 (UPI) -- President George W. Bush called Spain's prime minister-elect Monday to offer congratulations and reaffirm cooperation in fighting terror, the White House said.

Spokesman Scott McClellan said the conversation lasted about 10 minutes and that Socialist Party leader, Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, has reiterated Spain's commitment to working with Washington.

Zapatero overwhelmed Mariano Rajoy, the handpicked successor of Popular Party retiring leader Jose Maria Aznar, a staunch ally of Bush in the invasion of Iraq.

The upset came just days after 10 terrorist bombs -- possibly planted by al-Qaida linked Islamists -- exploded in Madrid killing about 200 people.

Aznar has supported the Iraq invasion despite wide popular dissent and there was speculation the bombings were a result of the Madrid-U.S. link.

Zapatero has vowed to withdraw the more than 1,000 Spanish troops serving in Iraq.

McClellan refused to link the bombings with the election results, but said the explosions underlined the continuing war against terrorism groups.

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