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Polls: 90 percent of Spaniards against war

Aznar: Ruling party won't be 'cornered' by pro-war stance

From Al Goodman
CNN Madrid Bureau Chief

Leaders
Aznar, right, met with Bush and British Prime Minister Tony Blair in the Azores ahead of the war.

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MADRID, Spain (CNN) -- With opinion polls showing more than 90 percent of Spaniards are against the war, Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar vowed his support of the war in Iraq would not lead to his ruling Popular Party being "cornered" by leftists and antiwar protesters.

Some leaders from Aznar's conservative party have expressed fears openly -- and many others have done so privately -- that the prime minister's support for the war could hurt the party in Spanish municipal elections on May 25.

"They're not going to get us cornered," Aznar told his party's mayoral candidates, one of whom was kicked, pushed and pelted with an egg at a campaign appearance this week by antiwar protesters.

Two recent opinion polls show overwhelming Spanish opposition to the war. A poll released on Saturday, taken by Spain's largest-circulation newspaper El Pais, showed 92 percent opposed to the war, with 80 percent rejecting Aznar's stance.

A government-run poll released last Thursday showed 91 percent of Spaniards are against the war.

Still, Aznar also claimed that millions of Spaniards silently support his position on the war.

As the municipal election campaign heats up, anti-war protesters have heckled many Popular Party candidates at campaign appearances.

Several dozen local party leaders have quit because of Aznar's support of the war, and dozens of party offices have been struck with paint or eggs in attacks that Aznar vowed would not go unanswered.

"We are going to denounce any attempt to attack or defame us or any effort to prevent us from reaching the voters," Aznar told candidates at party headquarters in Madrid on Saturday. "We'll denounce it before the public opinion, and where necessary, before the courts."

Spain's ant-war movement calls the attack on Iraq illegal without U.N. backing. But Aznar blasted the Socialist and Communist parties in Spain, saying, "I don't think they're always respecting the democratic rules for the elections."

The Socialist Party leadership has condemned the attacks on Popular Party officials and offices.

Several million Spaniards have marched since February in protests against the war. Since the war started, some of the marches have turned violent, with 170 people -- including dozens of police officers -- injured in Madrid last weekend.

Aznar is one of U.S. President George W. Bush's closest allies on the war, a stance Aznar justifies as part of the global fight against terrorism.

Spain is sending 900 troops and three ships to the war on what Aznar calls a "humanitarian mission."

Aznar also has permitted two Spanish bases, where about 3,000 U.S. troops are typically stationed, to be used extensively in the buildup to the war.

Five U.S. troops wounded in combat arrived this week at a U.S. military field hospital at Rota, the first such casualties sent to the hospital.


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