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Spanish eye Florida business boost

Jeb Bush, right, with Aznar aiming to bolster trade ties with Spain.
Jeb Bush, right, with Aznar aiming to bolster trade ties with Spain.

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MADRID, Spain (CNN) -- One of the U.S.'s key allies supporting a war in Iraq has met President's George W. Bush's brother to discuss business opportunities.

Florida Governor Jeb Bush and Spanish Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar met in Madrid Monday to discuss how Spanish businesses can develop in the southern U.S. state, the Spanish government said.

The meeting comes at a time when Spain is providing critical support for the United States stance on Iraq -- a position millions of people in hundreds of cities across the world demonstrated against on Saturday. (Full Story)

Aznar has said he would prefer the United Nations to pass another resolution before force was used, but he also said force could be used without an additional resolution.

Bush brushed aside a question from CNN on whether he was taking a message from the president to Aznar, and added that he did not expect to discuss Iraq with the prime minister.

But in a speech to Spanish business leaders, the governor blundered by calling Spain a republic when it is a constitutional monarchy with King Juan Carlos as the head of state.

Speaking in Spanish, Bush said: "I want to thank the president of the Republic of Spain for his friendship with the United States. I know this is a difficult situation in the short term.

"But I want to assure all of you here who have doubts, that in the long term, this relationship between the United States and Spain will provide benefits that cannot be imagined today."

Next weekend, Aznar is scheduled for a meeting with the governor's brother at his ranch in Crawford, Texas. Aznar is said to have a warm personal relationship with the president.

The United Nations passed Resolution 1441 last November, ordering Iraq to declare all its weapons of mass destruction and disarm, but Iraq says it has no such weapons.

More than two million people in 60 Spanish cities took to the streets on Saturday to add their voices to the international demonstrations against the use of force in Iraq.

Polls show that about 70 percent of Spaniards oppose the use of force in the Middle Eastern nation.

More than 750,000 people joined the weekend anti-war rally in London, a million in Rome, 500,000 in Germany and 300,000 across France, with similar mass demonstrations in Australia and the U.S..

Spain is a non-permanent member of the United Nations Security Council and has been one of the few nations at the Security Council to speak in favor of the U.S. position on Iraq.

In the EU, France and Germany lead Belgium, Luxembourg, Greece and Austria in strong opposition to war against Iraq.

Only four member states -- Spain, Italy, Denmark and the Netherlands -- are openly lining up behind the UK in support of President Bush's plans.

The remaining four EU member states -- Ireland, Sweden, Finland and Portugal -- are anxious not to offend the Americans but deeply worried about the military build-up against Iraq.

Bush arrived in Spain on Sunday with about 50 Florida business leaders, who told CNN that Spain and Florida have about $1 billion annually in two-way trade.

The governor first met with the Madrid Regional President, Alberto Ruiz Gallardon, on Monday before attending the meeting with Aznar.

Bush will visit Madrid and Barcelona before returning to Florida on Friday.

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


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