Spain Stands With United States Against Terror

By Jim Garamone

Spain stands with the United States in the fight against terrorism, Spanish President Jose Maria Aznar told a joint session of Congress during a visit to the U.S. last week.

Spain has a brigade and a headquarters serving with the Multinational Division Central/South based in Hillah, Iraq. A number of Spanish soldiers have been killed or wounded in the country.

Aznar, speaking through a translator, said Spain understands "that we have to face risks and shoulder commitments — commitments that must be met."

He said Spain wants to occupy a position in the first line in defense of democracy and the rule of law alongside friends and allies. "We share with you values and principles," he said. "And let me say that our commitment to freedom is unwavering."

Aznar used the opportunity to pay tribute to the American people "for the indispensable role that they have played in the fight for democracy and freedom."

Aznar told Congress that the Atlantic relationship is key to worldwide stability. "The Atlantic relationship strengthens Europeans and Americans alike, and it makes the world a safer and freer place," he said.

He said European integration must be carried forward, but always with an eye to transatlantic ties. "As a European, let me say that I have no wish whatsoever for an alternative to the transatlantic relationship," the Spanish president said.

"I want no alternative to the Atlantic relationship. Wanting a strong European Union, as Spain does, and being at the vanguard of Europe, as Spain is, doesn’t entail working to be a counter power to the United States. It means working toward an Atlantic-minded Europe."

Aznar said that when terrorists attacked the United States on Sept. 11, 2001, they were challenging the core values of humanity: freedom, moral decency, compassion and respect for the lives of others. "Immediately after the attacks, Spain expressed its active solidarity and its commitment to the government and the people of the United States," he said. "Allow me here, in this chamber, to reiterate that solemn commitment today."

Aznar said both countries would both like to see the U.N. Counterterrorism Committee play a real and effective role. "We would like to see a world list of terrorist organizations drawn up and approved," he said. "We also feel it important to ensure that the voice of the victims of terrorism is listened to permanently."

He said the fight against terrorism continues in Afghanistan and Iraq. "In Iraq, terrorists are trying to prevent the Iraqi people from taking their own destiny in hand," Aznar said. "We refused to countenance the repeated violations of international law by Saddam Hussein’s tyranny."

Aznar pointed out the fight against proliferation of weapons of mass destruction is crucial to a more stable world. "Recent progress in the fight against the proliferation of these weapons would not have been possible had it not been for the firm stance that we have taken," he said.

"Proliferation poses a very real threat to everyone’s security," he continued. "Faced with the risk that these weapons might be used by terrorist groups, we cannot stand by and do nothing. In addressing this challenge, we have to act together and with resolve."