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Spanish Leader Visits Troops in Iraq - 2003-12-20


Spanish Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar has made a surprise visit to his country's troops in southern Iraq.

Spanish officials said Mr. Aznar had lunch with troops stationed in the town of Diwaniya and was due to return home later Saturday.

Mr. Aznar is one of the strongest supporters of the U.S.-led operation in Iraq despite widespread opposition among the Spanish public. Spain reaffirmed its commitment to keep 1,300 soldiers in Iraq after suffering its first major combat casualties in November, when seven intelligence agents were killed.

Portugal's interior minister, Antonio Figueiredo Lopes, was also due to arrive in Iraq today to visit Portuguese troops in the southern town of Nasiriyah.

Meanwhile, Iraqi police say U.S. troops mistakenly shot three Iraqi policemen and wounded two others outside the northern city of Kirkuk.

A police spokesman says American troops apparently believed the men were bandits and opened fire near a checkpoint on the road connecting Kirkuk and the capital, Baghdad.

U.S. military officials did not immediately comment on the incident.

Iraqi police also say gunmen in the southern town of Najaf injured a former Ba'ath party official and killed her five-year-old son as they walked to school today. A district mayor with ties to ousted leader Saddam Hussein's party was also killed in Najaf on Friday.

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