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Spain, after prisoner offer, wants better U.S. ties
February 25, 2009 / 3:49 PM / 9 years ago

Spain, after prisoner offer, wants better U.S. ties

MADRID (Reuters) - Spain’s promise to consider accepting prisoners from Guantanamo Bay coincides with warming relations with the United States under President Barack Obama, Spain’s foreign minister said Wednesday.

Miguel Angel Moratinos told La Ser radio there was “a good atmosphere, a good disposition” in Washington toward a possible meeting between Obama and Socialist Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, who was shunned by President George W. Bush.

Spain’s relations with the United States cooled after Zapatero fulfilled an election promise to pull Spanish troops out of Iraq when he first took office in 2004.

Zapatero, an outspoken critic of the Iraq war, was never invited to visit Bush in the United States, leading critics to suggest Europe’s fourth-largest economy was losing foreign policy influence.

Spanish government officials have made no secret of their enthusiasm for the more left-leaning Obama administration and in private have expressed hopes of gaining international sway thanks to a more like-minded Washington.

Moratinos said his meeting with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton Tuesday, at which he said Spain could accept prisoners from Guantanamo, boded well for the future.

“The new Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, has with her words and messages marked a new stage, in which Spain can have an active and much more intense role in the world,” Moratinos said. Spanish officials hope the Obama administration will favor a more multilateral foreign policy approach and be favorable to Spain in the areas it considers to be of special interest, such as Latin America and North Africa.

Spain also wants more emphasis on development in Afghanistan, where it has a contingent of troops, a subject Moratinos said he discussed with Clinton.

The Americans have still to make specific requests as to the prisoners it might want Spain to accept, Moratinos said.

“There is no maximum or minimum number of prisoners that Spain might take, we’ll have to look at it case by case,” Moratinos said.

Reporting by Jason Webb and Teresa Larraz; editing by Janet McBride

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