Blair puts on brave face over Spain vote
TONY BLAIR and his government were today putting on a brave face over the surprise Socialist election victory in Spain which ousted one of Britain and the United States’ key allies over the war in Iraq.
Conservative prime minister Jose Maria Aznar was swept from the Spanish premiership in the wake of the Madrid train bombings.
Voters punished him and his Popular Party for their insistence that the Basque terrorists ETA were responsible for the massacre of 200 commuters.
And there was a growing suggestion that they also blamed Mr Aznar for making Spain a target for the al-Qaida terrorists who now are seen as the main suspects.
But as Britain announced plans to deploy security marshalls on the London tube in the wake of the atrocity, Prime Minister Mr Blair was congratulating his new Spanish counterpart Jose Luis Rodrigues Zapatero.
Leader of the Commons Peter Hain, a key ally of Mr Blair, said that the close friendship between Britain and Spain would continue despite Mr Zapatero and his party’s opposition to the war. Already he has made clear that Spain will bring back the 1300 peace keepers it sent to help rebuild Iraq as soon as possible.
The Socialists seemed to have no chance of victory just a week ago but the Madrid bombings transformed the scene as voters felt that the government’s insistence that ETA was responsible was deliberately misleading and that they withheld evidence that Muslim fanatics were behind the outrage.
And some have been holding up photographs of the pre-invasion meeting between Mr Aznar, Mr Blair and US President George Bush in the Azores with the caption: "Could this picture have cost 200 deaths?"
• Spanish police were today continuing to question five men arrested over the Madrid train bomb atrocity, after legal papers linked one suspect with a terrorist jailed over the September 11 attacks.
One of the three Moroccans arrested over the bombings which killed 200 people was a "follower" of Imad Yarkas, who was jailed for helping plan the attacks on New York and Washington, according to the papers.
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