Mr Zapatero said he was keeping an election promise
Spain's new prime minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero has told the country he has given orders for Spanish troops in Iraq to be brought home in the "shortest time possible".
The following is the text of his broadcast on Spanish Canal 24 Horas television.
Good evening. This morning, once the defence minister [Jose Bono] was sworn in, I gave him the order to make the necessary arrangements for the Spanish troops stationed in Iraq to return home in the shortest time, and with the greatest security possible.
In March 2003, more than a year ago, I made a public commitment, which I repeated in February.
I said then that in the event of my being elected prime minister by citizens, I would order the return of the Spanish troops from Iraq if the UN did not take charge of the political and military situation.
With the information we have available and which we have gathered in the course of recent weeks, it is not foreseeable that a UN resolution will be adopted that matches the content [as heard] on which our presence in Iraq was made conditional.
Neither the public statements of the main players involved in this conflict nor the contacts held by the defence minister at my request in the course of the last month provide any evidence allowing one to foresee a substantial variation in the political and military situation existing in Iraq within the period envisaged, and in the manner demanded by the Spanish people.
These circumstances have led me to take the decision to order the return of our soldiers with the maximum security and consequently in the shortest possible time.
'Keeping my promise'
This decision reflects, above all, my wish to keep the promise I made to Spaniards more than a year ago.
The government, inspired by the deepest democratic convictions, does not want, cannot and will not act against or in disregard for the will of Spaniards.
This is its main obligation and it is also its main commitment.
The decision also reflects the aim of contributing to the fight which the international community is carrying out against terrorism on the basis of the strictest respect for international law.
The Spanish government will continue strongly to support the stability, the democratisation, the territorial integrity and the reconstruction of Iraq, and, in accordance with this principle, it will promote whatever actions by the United Nations and the European Union offer a framework of international co-operation that contributes effectively to Iraqis regaining their sovereignty, and being able to organise their elections freely and democratically in order to build their own future in peace, independence and security.
The government will maintain Spain's position as a loyal ally of its partners.
We shall fulfil our country's international commitments, most especially those related to our participation in international peace and security missions.
'Gratitude and warmth'
I want to express clearly my recognition of the Spanish armed forces, which day after day fulfil their missions in Spain and in the most diverse regions of the world and which, in Iraq, have provided constant proof of their preparation, professionalism and discipline, as well as of their humanity and dedication in helping the Iraqi civilian population.
So may my own and my government's gratitude and warmth go out to them, on behalf of all Spaniards.
The defence minister will in the coming days report to you on the process of the troops' return.
For my part, I announce to you that, in accordance with what I said in the recent investiture speech, this very day I have requested the urgent summoning of a plenary session of the Congress of Deputies in order for the government to inform the parliamentary groups of the reasons and the significance of this decision, about which, moreover, I personally told the leader of the opposition a few minutes ago.
Thank you very much.
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