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Spain: No rift over terror suspects



WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Spanish Prime Minister Jose Mariz Aznar downplayed suggestions of a rift with the U.S. on Wednesday as he said his country would consider any extradition request for suspects arrested in connection with the terrorism investigation.

Aznar said the United States has not submitted any extradition request for any suspected al Qaeda members.

There has been speculation that the U.S. death penalty and President George W. Bush's proposal to use military tribunals for terrorism suspects could be stumbling blocks to extradition.

"If and when the United States requests that extradition, we will study it," Aznar said at the White House, where he met Bush on Wednesday.

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Speaking through a translator, Aznar said any extradition request would be reviewed "with full respect of Spanish and United States law." He said the issue is also being studied at the European Union.

Aznar emphasized the "full" cooperation between the United States and Spain in fighting terrorism, but he did not specifically endorse the Bush administration's decision to allow the use of military tribunals to try suspected terrorists who are not U.S. citizens.

Fourteen people have been arrested in Spain since the September 11 terrorist attacks. A judge has charged that eight of them have ties to al Qaeda -- the network headed by alleged terrorist mastermind Osama bin Laden -- and were involved in the attacks.

A Spanish court official confirmed to CNN that extradition might be difficult because of the death penalty in the United States, which does not exist in Spain, as well as the military tribunals, which would provide fewer guarantees to the accused than are normally provided in Spanish courts.

Like Aznar, Bush downplayed reports of any differences, saying Spain has been "incredibly helpful" to the United States in the war on terrorism.

-- CNN Madrid Bureau Chief Al Goodman contributed to this report



 
 
 
 


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