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Spain's PM Praises US for Fighting Terrorism - 2004-02-04

Spain's Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar, addressing a joint "meeting" of the U.S. Congress, says his government is committed to fighting terrorism and proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.

In a speech interrupted frequently by applause, Mr. Aznar said terrorists must be made to realize that "their only and inevitable outcome is defeat."

Referring to the September 2001 terrorist attacks in the United States, he praised what he called the "unwavering" commitment of the American people to the fight for democracy and freedom.

Mr. Aznar, who was one of the strongest supporters of U.S. and coalition military action in Iraq, said Spain is ready to join the first line of defense of democracy and rule of law.

"Alongside friends and allies, in good times, as well as in times of difficulty, we share with you values and principles," he said. "And let me say that our commitment to freedom is unwavering."

Spain has about 2,000 troops in Iraq. Seven Spanish military intelligence officials were killed in an ambush last year.

Mr. Aznar made clear he considers Iraq and Afghanistan the front line in the war against terrorism.

"Today, in Afghanistan and Iraq, the most important phase of the fight against terrorism is currently taking place," he said. "In Iraq, terrorists are trying to prevent the Iraqi people from taking their own destiny in hand. We refused to countenance the repeated violations of international law by Saddam Hussein's tyranny."

Some of Mr. Aznar's comments appeared to be aimed at giving some moral support to President Bush, amid controversy over his administration's handling of pre-Iraq war intelligence.

"Proliferation poses a very real threat to everyone's security," said Mr. Aznar. "Faced with the risk that these weapons might be used by terrorist groups, we cannot stand by and do nothing. In addressing this challenge, we have to act together and with resolve."

Mr. Aznar said his government is committed to Iraq's long-term reconstruction.

In other remarks, the Spanish leader repeated his call for a common economic, financial and trade zone between Europe and the United States by 2015. And he called Cuba, under President Fidel Castro "one of the last remaining anomalies of history, not just in the Americas, but anywhere in the world."