UN General Assembly

The speech by President Bush to the UN General Assembly elicited only mild applause, while those by his critics were warmly received.  In particular, Spanish Prime Minister José Luis Zapàtero received what was almost a standing ovation,  The US is angry because he withdrew Spanish troops from Iraq, an action he justified. While he has reversed the conservative government's alignment with the US, he has strengthened the old government's policy of aligning Spain with Latin America and promoting relations with the Arab world. I had the impression that the program he proposed was agreed on at his recent meeting in Madrid with Chirac of France and Schröder of Germany. Spain does not like the term "Latin America".  "Iberoamerica" ties the area to Iberia, ie Spain and Portugal. Zapatero said he backed the program announced by Brazilian President Lula da Silva.  Clearly they had worked it out together. It called for aligning Ibero America with the European Union, implicitly thwarting the US plan for a free trade zone of the Americas. As for the Arab world, Zapatero proposed a council linking it with the European Union. He was taking advantage of Spain's historic ties with Ibero America and its proximity to Morocco and the Arab world to position Spain as the European representative with those two areas.  It would not surprise me if he established in Spain an office for EU relations with Ibero America and another for EU relations with the Arab world. As for the latter, it would exclude the US and bring Iraq into  its sphere.  To use an Americanism, Europe regards the Arab world as its backyard.  Not only the EU but also Russia regard the Middle East as part of their zone of influence and the US as an intruder.  We should remember alto that the EU and Russia have immense financial interests in the Middle East. This is seldom mentioned, but it is an important factor.

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Ronald Hilton 2004


last updated: September 26, 2004