Monday, February 17, 2003

It's All About the Oil - For France?

Oops, or was it Spain!

Spain's prime minister, Jose Maria Aznar, was coming to terms yesterday with the fact that his unswerving support for George Bush on Iraq had inflicted heavy political damage that could cost his conservative People's party its hold on power.

Ministers admitted that the government's position was "causing significant electoral damage" and Mr Aznar's wife, Ana Botella, was quoted as saying his party was going through "one of the worst moments in its history".

Between 2 million and 3 million people took to the streets of Spanish cities to protest at the weekend in what was said to the biggest overall turnout in the world. As many as one in 15 Spaniards marched.

More significantly for Mr Aznar, opinion polls have shown that, for the first time since securing a clear victory in elections three years ago, the Socialists have overtaken the People's party in voting intentions.

Mr Aznar also faced embarrassment yesterday when it was revealed that in 1997 he had offered to pay Baghdad in "aid" if it gave oil contracts to the Spanish-owned Repsol company. The government was ready to make a "donation" if Repsol was given a concession in the Nasiriya field, despite the fact that the UN had just issued a series of resolutions condemning Iraq's continued blocking of inspections, according to El Mundo newspaper, which quoted official documents.

And, 'ole Jeb didn't help much by referring to Spain as the "Republic of Spain"...