news from ekklesia

By staff writers
March 22, 2004

Madrid memorial service to be attended by Blair and Charles

-22/3/04

Tony Blair and Prince Charles will attend a memorial service with church leaders in Madrid for the victims of this month's train bombings that killed 202 people.

Messages of sympathy flooded in after the atrocity from church leaders around the world.

Senior bishops in the UK also gave the Prime Minister their backing over Iraq after claims that the war had been responsible for the bombing, and urged him to finish the job that he had started.

The newly-elected Spanish Prime Minister, Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, attacked the decision of Tony Blair and President George W Bush to go to war, and warned that he would withdraw Spanish troops from Iraq.

However, the Bishop of Bath and Wells, the Rt Rev Peter Price, who has been one of the most vocal critics of the war, said he believed that the alliance must remain in the country, and hoped that the new Spanish leader will not carry out his threats.

He continued: ìWe need to provide the safeguards, economically, socially and politically for the future of the nation. I acknowledge the Spanish Prime Ministerís stance of opposition but hope that he doesnít fulfil his present threat to pull troops out as this will make a difficult situation even worse.î

But he warned that President Bush and Tony Blair must tackle the issues of poverty, injustice, and violence that cause massive suffering and undergird resentment towards the west. ìIt is a swamp on which the mosquitoes of violence feed,î he said.

Blair's office would not confirm a meeting with Spain's Socialist prime minister-elect, Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, but diplomats said on Monday it would be highly unusual for two leaders not to hold talks in such circumstances, with both attending the ceremony.

"He will be attending the memorial service in Madrid," Blair's spokesman said of the prime minister, adding that "one or two other meetings" had been scheduled before Blair flies on to Portugal and then to Brussels for a European Union heads of government summit on Thursday.

In a shock result, Zapatero ousted the centre-right government of Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar in elections three days after the suspected al Qaeda-linked bombs.

Blair quickly telephoned Zapatero to congratulate him on his victory but any meeting between the pair could prove awkward.

Aznar and Blair had forged a close alliance and both strongly supported the U.S.-led war in Iraq. His party's ejection from power could have repercussions for the British government, particularly in the European political sphere.

Few other major EU powers backed the Iraq war and Zapatero has vowed to stand by a pre-election pledge to withdraw Spain's 1,300 troops from Iraq, unless the United Nations takes control there by mid-year.

He had already criticised Blair and President George W. Bush, branding the U.S.-led occupation of Iraq a "disaster" and saying "you can't organise a war with lies".

Before the Spanish election, Blair hosted Aznar's anointed successor, Mariano Rajoy, in London but made no reciprocal contact with Zapatero.

Madrid memorial service to be attended by Blair and Charles

-22/3/04

Tony Blair and Prince Charles will attend a memorial service with church leaders in Madrid for the victims of this month's train bombings that killed 202 people.

Messages of sympathy flooded in after the atrocity from church leaders around the world.

Senior bishops in the UK also gave the Prime Minister their backing over Iraq after claims that the war had been responsible for the bombing, and urged him to finish the job that he had started.

The newly-elected Spanish Prime Minister, Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, attacked the decision of Tony Blair and President George W Bush to go to war, and warned that he would withdraw Spanish troops from Iraq.

However, the Bishop of Bath and Wells, the Rt Rev Peter Price, who has been one of the most vocal critics of the war, said he believed that the alliance must remain in the country, and hoped that the new Spanish leader will not carry out his threats.

He continued: ìWe need to provide the safeguards, economically, socially and politically for the future of the nation. I acknowledge the Spanish Prime Ministerís stance of opposition but hope that he doesnít fulfil his present threat to pull troops out as this will make a difficult situation even worse.î

But he warned that President Bush and Tony Blair must tackle the issues of poverty, injustice, and violence that cause massive suffering and undergird resentment towards the west. ìIt is a swamp on which the mosquitoes of violence feed,î he said.

Blair's office would not confirm a meeting with Spain's Socialist prime minister-elect, Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, but diplomats said on Monday it would be highly unusual for two leaders not to hold talks in such circumstances, with both attending the ceremony.

"He will be attending the memorial service in Madrid," Blair's spokesman said of the prime minister, adding that "one or two other meetings" had been scheduled before Blair flies on to Portugal and then to Brussels for a European Union heads of government summit on Thursday.

In a shock result, Zapatero ousted the centre-right government of Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar in elections three days after the suspected al Qaeda-linked bombs.

Blair quickly telephoned Zapatero to congratulate him on his victory but any meeting between the pair could prove awkward.

Aznar and Blair had forged a close alliance and both strongly supported the U.S.-led war in Iraq. His party's ejection from power could have repercussions for the British government, particularly in the European political sphere.

Few other major EU powers backed the Iraq war and Zapatero has vowed to stand by a pre-election pledge to withdraw Spain's 1,300 troops from Iraq, unless the United Nations takes control there by mid-year.

He had already criticised Blair and President George W. Bush, branding the U.S.-led occupation of Iraq a "disaster" and saying "you can't organise a war with lies".

Before the Spanish election, Blair hosted Aznar's anointed successor, Mariano Rajoy, in London but made no reciprocal contact with Zapatero.

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