Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, the man who pulled Spain's troops out of Iraq, condemned on Wednesday the abuse of Iraqi prisoners but refused to blame it on the US government.
Zapatero said a summit of Latin American and European leaders in Mexico later this week should not denounce the United States for the torture and humiliation of Iraqis at Abu Ghraib prison near Baghdad.
"Those who should be condemned, those who should assume responsibility are logically those who did wrong, not a people, not a country," he told a joint news conference with Mexican President Vicente Fox.
Photographs of US troops abusing Iraqi detainees have brought harsh international criticism of US forces and hardened Arab opposition to the US occupation.
Zapatero urged the United States to punish the troops involved in the torture scandal. An American soldier was imprisoned for a year and thrown out of the Army last week for sexually humiliating prisoners in Iraq.
"A democratic system which works, like the US system works, should exhaust all the channels to assign responsibility," said Zapatero.
The Spanish leader rocked the US-led coalition by announcing after his election in March that he would pull Spanish forces out of Iraq. The last troops arrived home on Monday.
European Union, Latin American and Caribbean leaders meeting in the western Mexican city of Guadalajara on Friday are expected to urge greater international cooperation in resolving crises, following the US decision to attack Iraq last year without UN backing.
"The United Nations is our great opportunity, perhaps our only guarantee for the future because there is no international order without multilateralism and the rules of international law," Zapatero said.
(China Daily via agencies, May 27, 2004)