- The Washington Times - Thursday, November 29, 2001

Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar of Spain, a nation holding 14 suspected members of Osama bin Laden's al Qaeda terrorist group, yesterday pledged to work toward extradition of terrorists and voiced support for President Bush's use of military tribunals if deemed necessary.
The Spanish leader, who met and lunched with Mr. Bush at the White House, also offered to supply military forces for the U.S.-led war on terrorism.
"We intend to maintain and, if necessary, strengthen our political commitment, our cooperation in the area of intelligence and security and information-sharing, and, if need be, to commit military forces to that battle," he said. "The only fate that awaits terrorists is defeat and the only option for terrorists is to be brought to justice."
Mr. Aznar reiterated that commitment in remarks last night at a dinner at the Spanish Embassy on 16th Street NW.
"President Bush earned the heartfelt gratitude of Spanish people when he offered to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with us in the fight against terrorism," the prime minister said in Spanish. A written English translation of his remarks was provided to guests.
"That is why tonight I solemnly reiterate Spain's commitment to supporting the United States in its in our campaign against terrorism. Our commitment has no sell-by date, no 'if' and 'buts,' and will spare no effort."
Spain already had offered the United States use of its airspace and military bases for the campaign in Afghanistan. Defense Minister Frederico Trillo told the Spanish parliament on Monday that he was committing 13 transport planes, including half the Spanish air force's Hercules C-130s, to take humanitarian aid to Afghanistan.
After an Oval Office meeting with the president, Mr. Aznar took issue with opponents of Mr. Bush's decision to create a mechanism to try foreigners for terrorist crimes in military tribunals. The courts can be convened in secret and do not require the same burden of proof as other U.S. courts.
"Can I also say that the United States is free to organize its own jurisdiction as it sees fit as a free and democratic country," Mr. Aznar said through an interpreter in a brief joint press conference in the Rose Garden.
But, he added: "Any action taken on the extradition issue will be taken with full respect of Spanish and United States law." Mr. Aznar also said Spain would decide whether to extradite the 14 men to the United States only "if and when the United States requests that extradition."
Mr. Bush noted Spain's cooperation in the war against terrorism.
"Recently Spain has arrested al Qaeda members and has shared information about those al Qaeda members. And that is incredibly helpful," the president said.
Of the prime minister, Mr. Bush said: "He assured me that he would cooperate in any way possible in our mutual desire to fight terror."
But extradition of the al Qaeda members may be difficult. Most European nations, including Spain, resist extradition of suspects facing the death penalty.
The United States often assures nations any extradited suspect will not be executed.
Bush spokesman Ari Fleischer called the issue "hypothetical" since the United States had not requested extradition of the men, some of whom were believed to have given logistical support to the hijackers who crashed airliners into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.
Earlier in the day, Mr. Bush met with Kofi Annan, secretary-general of the United Nations. The two discussed the situation in Afghanistan and vowed to work to deliver relief to more than 7 million Afghans affected by weeks of bombing in the country.
"The degree of difficulty is high," Mr. Bush said. "There's no question we have a large task ahead of ourselves. We've got ample money We've got the food. The fundamental question is, in an environment that is not very secure, how do we get the food in to people? And that's what we're working on."
The secretary-general said the United Nations was trying to get food to the Afghans most in need. "And I hope the situation will clarify in the not-too-distant future to allow us to reach all those in need," he said.
Mr. Annan also looked ahead to a post-Taliban Afghanistan, a subject under discussion among rival Afghan factions in Bonn yesterday.


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