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Security Council Acted Hastily Blaming ETA for Train Bombing, says Annan

U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan says the Security Council must learn a lesson from its hasty condemnation of Basque separatists in connection with the Madrid train bombings. The Spanish ambassador has sent the Council president a letter expressing regret for the apparent mistake.

The secretary general says Security Council members are having second thoughts about last week's resolution accusing the Basque terrorist group ETA of responsibility for the train attacks that killed 200 people. The resolution was passed just hours after the bombs went off.

The unanimous vote was largely an expression of the Council's sympathy. Diplomats say the resolution included the reference to ETA in response to a request from the Spanish government.

Mr. Annan says officials in Madrid have since apologized.

"I think the Council members themselves have felt uneasy about that, and the Spanish government gave them a letter explaining that it acted in good faith, and at the time it informed the Council that ETA was responsible they genuinely thought so," he said. "And I think there is a lesson here for everybody, including the Council members."

A U.N. spokesman said the letter from the Spanish ambassador to the Security Council had noted that the bombing investigation has subsequently pointed to the involvement of citizens of other countries in the attack.

The secretary general said it is clear the Madrid government's hasty response contributed to its defeat in elections that followed a few days later.

"Obviously there were many factors - one was the question of who did it, and whether the public felt they got a full, clear picture from the government of what was going on," said Mr. Annan. "There was a question of the large number of the population having been opposed to the war, being reminded of the war by the claims made by the terrorists who committed the attack."

Mr. Annan said he would be cautious in drawing conclusions from the Madrid bomb attacks. But he said the incident had underscored the need for greater international cooperation in the war on terrorism.