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World Leaders Attend State Funeral for Spanish Bombing Victims - 2004-03-24


Leaders from across Europe have joined relatives of the victims of Madrid's March 11 terrorist bombings at a state funeral in the Spanish capital honoring the 190 people killed in the attacks. The occasion also gave some of the visiting leaders the chance to deal with the significant political fallout from the bombings.

At Madrid's Almudena Cathedral, Spain's royal family led the nation in mourning for the dead. They were joined at the service by royalty and political leaders from Europe and around the world in a show of sympathy for the victims of Spain 's worst-ever terrorist attack.

The city's Roman Catholic archbishop, Cardinal Antonio Maria Rouco Varela, said the terrorists who brought such grief will have to answer to both human and divine justice for their crimes.

It was another painful day for the families of the victims, who died as they traveled by rail into Madrid during the morning rush hour 13 days ago.

While the memorial service was a powerful expression of national and international solidarity, it came in the midst of a dramatic political shift in Spain.

Three days after the attacks, Spain's voters gave Socialist leader Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero an upset victory over the incumbent conservatives, whom many Spaniards accuse of provoking the bombings by supporting the U.S.-led war in Iraq.

Mr. Rodriguez Zapatero has said he will withdraw Spain's 1,300 troops from Iraq by the end of June unless they come under a United Nations mandate. He has also pledged to improve relations with France and Germany, shifting Spain away from its close ties with the United States under the conservatives to a more pro-European stance.

The incoming Spanish leader met separately Wednesday with British Prime Minister Tony Blair and U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell, among others, but there were no details on the substance of their talks.