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Iraq Tops Agenda of Meeting Between Blair, New Spanish PM - 2004-06-03

The future of Iraq topped the agenda as new Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero met with his British counterpart, Tony Blair, Thursday in London.

The British and Spanish leaders agreed that the new interim Iraqi government must enjoy full sovereignty if it is to have any chance of success.

At a news conference at Ten Downing Street following their meeting, Mr. Zapatero said he would also like to see full Iraqi elections take place as soon as possible and that the coalition forces should remain in the country for the shortest time possible.

Despite current differences on the wording of a new U.N. Security Council resolution paving the way for an interim Iraqi government, Mr. Blair sounded optimistic that the details could be worked out soon.

"So, I mean, I think of course there will be some negotiations still to be completed, but actually I think the signs are pretty good, because there is common agreement on the single fundamental principle which is that sovereignty should be transferred after the 30 of June in a full and indivisible way," he said. "And that is our position. I think that is the position of the whole international community."

Asked in the news conference if Spain would consider sending any soldiers back to Iraq as part of any peacekeeping force that might evolve out of a new U.N. mandate, Mr. Zapatero, through a translator, was firm.

"No, there is no possibility, we are not considering Spanish troops returning to Iraq," he stated. "Spaniards are quite happy with where their troops are now."

The Spanish leader thanked his British counterpart for what he called the respect Mr. Blair showed him when he announced the withdrawal of Spanish coalition troops.

In addition to Iraq, the two leaders discussed the chances of finalizing a European Union Constitution that would form the centerpiece of the upcoming EU summit later this month under the Irish presidency.