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Zapatero: Spanish 'not cowards'

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Madrid (Spain)
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MADRID, Spain (CNN) -- Prime Minister-elect Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero has pledged not to give in to terrorists, bristling at the notion that the Spanish are "cowards" when it comes to facing terrorism.

"No Spanish government has given into terror and no government will do that," Zapatero told a Socialist Party conference Friday.

He was referring to more than 30 years of terror attacks in Spain at the hands of Basque separatists.

Three days after the March 11 train bombings that killed 190 people, Spanish voters ousted the ruling Popular Party in favor of Zapatero's underdog Socialists.

Public opinion polls showed a significant number Spaniards believed the trains were targeted because of current Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar's support of the U.S.-led war in Iraq.

The vote prompted a number of U.S. political commentators to lament the results, saying the Spanish had given into terrorism.

But Zapatero challenged that notion.

"My priority is to fight every type of terrorism," he said.

"Terrorists are going to find us facing them and that together we are going to win."

Zapatero ran on a platform of pulling Spain's troops out of Iraq and has threatened to do so if they do not fall under U.N. command once the U.S.-led coalition hands over sovereignty to Iraqis on July 1.

Spain's military contribution to Iraq is not large, but it is politically significant.

A withdrawal could prompt other nervous European countries with troops in Iraq to follow suit.

In Brussels, Aznar said Zapatero's planned withdrawal from Iraq would be a huge blunder.

"My view is that to remove Spanish troops from Iraq is a calamitous error for Spanish politics," Reuters quoted Aznar as telling a news conference after attending his last EU summit as prime minister of Spain.

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