22 March 2004

Iraq reprisal: US envoy at odds with PM

The Madrid train bombings were probably carried out in reprisal for Spain's support of the Iraq war, says the US ambassador to Australia, Tom Schieffer.

Mr Schieffer also suggested that the attack was part of an al-Qaeda attempt to split the nations of the West and undermine commitment to the war on terrorism.

The concession that the attack could have been a reprisal over Iraq puts the ambassador at odds with the Prime Minister, John Howard, by echoing comments a week ago by the Australian Federal Police Commissioner, Mick Keelty.

Senior government ministers savagely rebuked Mr Keelty for suggesting a link between Iraq and the targeting of Madrid.

While Mr Schieffer supported the Federal Government's argument that Islamic fundamentalist terrorists hate us 'for what we are, not for what we've done', he also suggested that they had a strategy of trying to pick off allies in the war on terrorism.

Mr Ambassador? I have the prime minister's chief of staff on line 1...

How can Spain have suffered reprisals if terrorist groups attack because of who we are, not what we have done?

If they hate the democracies for merely existing why do we keep hearing that they hate Australia for East Timor?

Both propositions cannot be true.

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