Spain mulls more troops in Afghanistan to guard elections.

The Spanish government plans to send a new contingent of 500 troops to Afghanistan to reinforce security in the country's September parliamentary elections, Defense Minister Jose Bono said Tuesday.

Bono told reporters that he will request Congress on Wednesday to assess the possibility of sending more troops.

Spain has already deployed 540 soldiers in Afghanistan. As part of the NATO troops in the Asian country, the Spanish forces are in Herat and Qala-i-Naw, both in western Afghanistan.

In regard to the personal differences between Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero and US President George W. Bush, Bono said the military relations between the two NATO allies are at their best.

The US-Spanish relationship soured after Socialist Zapatero took office in April 2004 and withdrew 1,300 Spanish troops from Iraq soon afterwards.

Zapatero's attitude toward the Iraq issue was in sharp contrast to that of his predecessor, Jose Maria Aznar, who, together with British Prime Minister Tony Blair, was the staunchest ally of Bush.

Nevertheless, officials of the two countries have decided after a series of talks to strengthen cooperation in the combat against terrorism and other international crimes.

[Source: Xinhua News Agency, Madrid, 22Jun05]

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