News, January '04

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News theme: Spain and Iraq

Spain is particularly in the news due to its position on Iraq, closely linking itself with Washington. Recently the International Donor Conference took place in Madrid, underlining Spain's commitment to ongoing support for a new Iraq.

1,300 Spanish troops are in Iraq to support the intervention force. They are leading the 'Plus Ultra' division of Spanish speaking troops (including 1,200 Central American troops), based in Diwanya, central Iraq and under the Polish overall regional leadership. Obvioulsy, with the great insecurity in the country, new moves in the UN and related issues, the Spanish presence will be a topic of newsworthiness for months to come.

On September 4th, Defence minister Federico Trillo admitted the Spanish presence in Iraq could be longer than initially planned, especially in the light of US statements saying they may need to pull back partially in due course.

On 29th November seven intelligence officers were killed in an ambush on their convoy south of Bagdad. One man survived. This was by far the worst incident to date, two others having died in previous attacks since the Spanish contingent arrived, as well as a number of journalists during the actual war.

Once again, the Spanish forces are getting involved in an international peace-keeping type mission. Since 1983, when Spain joined NATO, the Spanish forces have been ever more involved on the international scene. Previously, the military in Spain were a largely inward-looking force aimed at maintaining the Franco dictatorship. After a difficult time of transition, the new Spanish forces appear to play their part well in non-war situations.

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