Wednesday, January 14, 2004


When Spanish Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar joined the coalition of the willing and supported the overthrow of Saddam, many criticized him. Aznar sent Spanish troops to Iraq to help in the liberation, and took heat from his own countrymen for doing it.

Well, it seems that Aznar can now have the last laugh. He is stepping down as the Prime Minister in March, and his party, the Popular Party, has a strong lead in the March elections. In addition, Aznar is "likely to be considered for a major international post" soon, perhaps in the EU or UN.

Mr. Aznar and his center-right Popular Party took a considerable risk in the Iraq conflict, which was deeply unpopular in Spain.

But the gamble appears to have paid off: Mr. Aznar's party has opened a sizable lead in opinion polls in advance of the March 14 general election over the opposition Socialists.

With Iraq fading as an issue and a strong economy behind him, Deputy Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy, Mr. Aznar's handpicked successor, could win an absolute majority in the new 350-seat parliament, a poll published by the Barcelona daily La Vanguardia reported.

Mr. Aznar, 50, is likely to be considered for a major international post after he steps down , perhaps with the European Union or the United Nations. The Financial Times reported the Spanish president is working on his English skills in preparation for such an opportunity.


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