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Bush Congratulates Putin, Spanish Socialists on Election Victories - 2004-03-15

U.S. President George W. Bush has congratulated the victors in the Spanish and Russian elections.

Spain's election came in the wake of a terrorist attack in Madrid, and resulted in an upset victory for Socialist Party leader Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero. He has been an opponent of the U.S.-led military operation in Iraq, and has spoken of withdrawing the 1,300 Spanish troops deployed there.

But the White House is rejecting all talk of damage to the coalition that ousted Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein. Instead, Spokesman Scott McClellan characterized President Bush's call to the prime minister-elect as congratulatory. He told reporters tht both said they look forward to working together, particularly in their shared commitment to combat terrorism.

Mr. McClellan refused to say if he concludes last Thursday's terrorist attack in Madrid was responsible for Mr. Zapatero's victory at the polls. He said only that terrorists attack indiscriminately, and seek to spread fear and chaos. He said they seek to intimidate and will not succeed.

The White House spokesman said the Madrid attack provides a strong reminder that the world must stand united in the war against terror. He said those efforts must now be redoubled.

The call to the prime minister-elect came immediately after President Bush telephoned Spain's outgoing Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar, one of his closest allies in Iraq. Mr. McClellan said it was an opportunity for the president to thank him for his support, friendship and strong leadership.

Earlier, Mr. Bush spoke with Russian President Vladimir Putin, who was elected Sunday to a second term in office. President Bush said he looks forward to working with the Russian leader in the future, and emphasized the election provided an opportunity for Mr. Putin to deepen Russia's commitment to market-based and democratic reforms.