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Bush Criticizes Spain Pullout From Iraq

20 April 2004 -- U.S. President George W. Bush has told Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero his decision to withdraw Spain's troops from Iraq is "regrettable."

Bush urged Zapatero to avoid actions that give "false comfort to terrorists or enemies of freedom in Iraq."

U.S. State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said the United States hopes Spain's troop withdrawal is coordinated with coalition forces.

"We regret that they [the new Spanish government] made such an abrupt announcement of their decision to withdraw. As you know, the president talked to Prime Minister Zapatero today. And certainly we hope that the government of Spain will withdraw its troops in a coordinated fashion, in a orderly manner that permits the close coordination with other coalition forces, so that there's not any deficit of any kind on the ground," Boucher said.

Spanish Defense Minister Jose Bono said Spain's 1,300 troops would be pulled from Iraq within six weeks.

U.S. Brigadier General Mark Kimmitt said there will be no power vacuum when Spanish troops pulled out of Al-Najaf -- a holy Shi'ite city at the center of a U.S. standoff with a radical Shi'ite cleric.

Early today, Honduran President Ricardo Maduro announced his country will removes its 370 troops from Iraq "in the shortest time possible." The troops have been serving under Spanish command in Al-Najaf. They had been scheduled to leave Iraq at the beginning of July. It was not clear from Maduro's statement whether they would be coming home before that date.

In other news, in the flash point Sunni city of Al-Fallujah, the U.S. coalition announced an agreement aimed at ending a standoff between U.S.-led forces and insurgents there. Coalition spokesman Dan Senor said the agreement includes an amnesty for those who hand in their weapons. (Reuters, AP)