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Spain's govt 'twisted' bombings for gains - report

Reuters | June 23 2005

Spain's previous center-right government "manipulated and twisted" the Madrid train bombings of March 2004 in a bid to salvage general elections three days later, a parliamentary commission found on Wednesday.

In a 200-page report after a year of bitter wrangling, the commission accused Jose Maria Aznar's Popular Party (PP) government of ignoring police warnings that its support for the Iraq war increased the threat from Islamic terrorism in Spain.

The PP, which lost power to the Socialist party amid a backlash at its handling of the Islamic militant bombings, was the only party not to support the commission's findings.

Despite mounting evidence to the contrary, including a tape by an Islamic group saying the attack was a reprisal for Spain's role in Iraq, the PP insisted Basque separatist guerrillas ETA were the prime suspects in the attacks which killed 191 people.

"The objective was to influence public opinion about the authors of the attack and avoid political consequences which might harm the electoral interests of the Popular Party," read the final report. The report alleged the PP was afraid of public outcry if the bombings were linked to its unpopular support for the Iraq war.

"It was clearly an informative attitude inappropriate for a democratic government," said the report.

Aznar, who stood down at the elections, told a hearing of the commission last year he still believed ETA was linked to the attacks. The commission said in Wednesday's report it found no evidence of any ETA involvement in the bombings.

The PP only supported parts of the commission's findings related to the need for greater support for the families of victims of terrorism and for improved security in Spain.

The text recommended measures to improve relations with the Muslim community and recommended a cross-party political pact to combat international terrorism.

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