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Last Updated: Monday, 19 April, 2004, 17:20 GMT 18:20 UK
Prodi hails Spain's Iraq pull-out
Romano Prodi
Prodi is accused of blurring the lines
European Commission President Romano Prodi has praised Spain's decision to withdraw its troops from Iraq.

Mr Prodi told a gathering of left-wing Italian parties that the Spanish move increased pressure on the international community to resolve the Iraq crisis.

In what is being seen as controversial comments, he added: "The divide that prevented Europe from having a common position is being sorted out."

Mr Prodi's remarks were quickly "clarified" by a spokesman.

The EU head still believes "the immediate withdrawal of troops from Iraq "is not useful", Marco Vignudelli said.

With this decision, Spain has fallen into line with our position
Romano Prodi
Mr Prodi told the left-wing parties that the United Nations must take political and military control of the situation in Iraq.

Madrid's decision, he said, brought Spain "into line with our position" - a reference to the Italian grouping's call for Italian troops to be withdrawn unless the UN takes charge in Iraq.

The Spanish move is "a very clear position and one that we share," Mr Prodi said.

The former Italian prime minister is expected to return to Italian politics once his mandate in Brussels ends later this year.

Critics say the remarks show him blurring the lines between his EU job and his political ambitions.


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