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Bush praises Spain for war effort

Aznar and Bush appeared together at the White House Wednesday.
Aznar and Bush appeared together at the White House Wednesday.

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Spanish Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar thanks U.S. President George W. Bush for placing the Batasuna group on a terror list (May 7)
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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- U.S. President George W. Bush has saluted Spain, a non-permanent member of the U.N. Security Council, for its support in the Iraq conflict, which he called "a momentous chapter in the history of freedom."

Following a meeting at the White House Wednesday, Aznar said the relationship between Spain and the United States "is extremely solid, strong. It's firm, and we want it to be that way, not only now, but also in the future."

"This relationship is based on a firm belief in shared values and in principles that we defend and that we proclaim and that we assume."

Bush announced that the United States would place financial sanctions on Batasuna, a Basque nationalist political party that the Spanish government says is the political wing of ETA, a militant separatist group fighting for an independent homeland.

ETA is blamed for more than 800 deaths in 34 years of violence. Batasuna denies it is the group's political wing but shares its ambition and refuses to condemn ETA attacks.

Aznar has moved to outlaw Batasuna at home. (Full story)

Bush also offered his condolences to the families of two Spanish journalists killed in the Iraq war, including one of them who died when U.S. forces targeted a hotel in Baghdad. However, asked by a Spanish reporter if he thought he ought to apologize, Bush said, "I think war is a dangerous place, and I think that nobody would kill a journalist intentionally."

Aznar said he also does not believe the journalists were deliberately targeted.

"The U.S. government has already said that this was a mistake, and we believe this. I am truly, fully convinced that no one would intentionally fire against innocent victims," he said. "The president has often expressed the pain that this produces and his condolences because of this. And I think that's enough."

In the run-up to the war, Aznar and Bush lobbied two Latin American countries with seats on the Security Council -- Mexico and Chile -- to support a resolution calling for enforcement of U.N. demands that Iraq disarm, which was co-sponsored by the United States, Spain and Britain.

In the end, neither Mexico nor Chile supported the resolution, but Bush said Wednesday that their reluctance to embrace U.S. policy would not damage their relationships with the United States.

"They're friends of ours. Period," he said. "We've got great relations with Mexico. We will continue to have great relations with Mexico. We've got an important free trade agreement with Chile that we're going to move forward with.

Both Bush and Aznar expressed optimism that the Security Council will end sanctions in Iraq, despite reservations expressed by two permanent members of the council, Russia and France, who also opposed military action before the war. (Call for end to sanctions)

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