Spanish PM gives order for pullout of troops from Iraq
Spain's new Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero said on Sunday he had given orders for Spain's 1,300 troops in Iraq to be brought home as soon as possible.
The announcement, made in a televised speech, came just one day after Zapatero was sworn in after the Socialists' upset victory in March 14 general elections.
He said he had given Defense Minister Jose Bono "the order to do what is necessary for the Spanish troops in Iraq to come home in the shortest time and in the greatest safety possible."
Zapatero had caused controversy with his election campaign pledge to bring home the Spanish troops if the United Nations did not take charge in Iraq by June 30.
Spain's new foreign minister said Spain intends to withdraw its troops from Iraq, but the timing had not been fixed yet, Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Maher said on Sunday.
Egypt's official Middle East News Agency (MENA) had earlier reported that Miguel Angel Moratinos had told his Egyptian counterpart in a telephone call that the Spanish troops would be removed from Iraq within 15 days. An Egyptian foreign ministry official had confirmed the report.
But Maher said in a statement sent to Reuters that the timing of the withdrawal had not been fixed yet:
"The Spanish Foreign Minister said that they [Spain] will announce the decision to withdraw its troops from Iraq, but the timing has not been fixed as yet," the statement said.
MENA later issued a report removing all reference to time element.
U.S. President George Bush has urged Spain and other allies in Iraq to stick with Washington.
"According to the information we have...it is not likely that a UN resolution will be adopted that will meet the conditions we have set for our presence in Iraq," Zapatero said.
11 U.S. troops said killed in IraqFive U.S. Marines were killed in a day-long battle and six U.S. soldiers were killed in other clashes during a weekend of bloodletting across Iraq, a U.S. newspaper and the military said.
A reporter for the St Louis Post-Dispatch newspaper wrote that dozens of Iraqis were killed along with the five Marines in 14 hours of fighting on Saturday in western Iraq near the Syrian border. There was no official confirmation of the deaths.
Marine intelligence told the reporter travelling with the Marines that nearly 300 Iraqi fighters launched an offensive, setting off a roadside bomb to lure Marines from their base and then firing 24 mortar rounds.
"It doesn't feel real. It doesn't look real," Lance Corporal Dustin Myshrall told the newspaper. At least nine Marines were wounded and more than 20 Iraqi fighters were captured and taken to the main Marine base near the western town of al-Qaim.
The U.S. military in Baghdad said one soldier had been killed in al-Anbar province, which stretches from Baghdad to the Syrian border, but did not say where or how the soldier died.
Near the southern town of Diwaniya on Saturday, the U.S. military said three soldiers were killed when a convoy was ambushed at 7 P.M. Witnesses said at least seven Iraqis were killed and six wounded in clashes between U.S.-led forces and Shi'ite militiamen in the town on Saturday evening.
On Sunday, angry residents pointed to blackened shops and walls bullet-pocked from the firefight that followed. Burned-out cars and two charred military vehicles littered the streets.
In other attacks, the U.S. military said a soldier died after a bomb blast hit a convoy in Baghdad on Saturday. Another soldier was killed and two were wounded by an anti-tank mine near Saddam's hometown of Tikrit the previous day.
Dutch troops traded fire with Iraqis on Saturday near the southern town of Samawa where they and Japanese forces are based. The Dutch military said one Iraqi had been wounded.
Najaf cease-fireThe uprising's leader, Moqtada al-Sadr, declared a two-day truce in the holy city of Najaf, his spokesman said on Sunday.
Qays al-Khazali told a news conference that Sadr's Mehdi Army militia would halt military operations in and around Najaf during commemorations for the anniversary of the Prophet Mohammad's death. These take place on Monday and Tuesday.
But Khazali also struck a defiant note. "The Americans are escalating the situation and the Mehdi Army is ready," he said.
About 2,500 U.S. troops have been poised on the outskirts of Najaf for several days, with orders to kill or capture Sadr.
U.S. officials demand that the cleric disarm his Mehdi Army and turn himself in to stand trial in an Iraqi court for the murder last year of a moderate Shi'ite cleric in Najaf.
Falluja, a bastion of Sunni insurgents, enjoyed a second day of calm, but five civilians were killed overnight as they fled U.S. shelling in the nearby town of Karma, witnesses said.
The Americans are demanding that fighters in Falluja lay down their guns before U.S. Marines lift their siege of the city of 300,000, an Iraqi mediator said.
Hajem al-Al-Hassani, of the Iraqi Islamic Party, said a compromise was being discussed under which Iraqi security forces would control Falluja, with no U.S. military presence.
"The negotiations have been difficult and a solution is expected to take time," he told Reuters.
U.S. spokesman Dan Senor said on Saturday time was running out for a negotiated solution in Falluja, where the Marines launched a crackdown after the killing and public mutilation of four American private security guards ambushed on March 31.
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