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Spain to Sponsor UN Draft for War Against Iraq

The Spanish parliament has approved the government's sponsorship of a draft U.N. resolution that would set the stage for a U.S.-led war on Iraq. But Prime Minister Aznar's pro-U.S. position may cost him dearly in upcoming regional elections.

In a rare secret ballot, Spain's Congress of Deputies, or lower house of parliament, voted 183 to 164 to support the government's policy on Iraq and a new U.N. resolution paving the way for war. While Prime Minister Jose María Aznar's Popular Party has a comfortable majority of 183 seats in the 350-seat Congress, the opposition had hoped enough of his deputies would break ranks and vote against the resolution. Public opinion in Spain runs over 80 percent against a military intervention to disarm Saddam Hussein without an express United Nations backing. But unlike in Britain, where a number of the ruling Labor lawmakers sided with the opposition in a similar vote, Spanish deputies answer to their parties rather than their precincts, and the opposition efforts failed.

In a separate vote, the Congress defeated a motion by the Communist-led United Left Coalition flatly rejecting any solution to the Iraq crisis through war. The 11 opposition parties had demanded a secret ballot hoping to encourage a split within Mr. Aznar's Popular Party.

They did not succeed, but political analysts say Mr. Aznar may pay a heavy political price for backing the U.S.-British resolution in municipal and regional elections slated for the end of May. Recent polls indicate that the main opposition Socialist Party is closing in on the once comfortable lead held by the Popular Party.