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McCain on Spain: It's mainly tough to explain

CAMPAIGN '08: RACE FOR THE WHITE HOUSE : On the Trail
/ GEOGRAPHY LESSON

September 19, 2008|Paul Richter

Some Spaniards are wondering whether John McCain has turned cool toward their prime minister -- or maybe can't remember him -- after confusing comments by the Republican presidential candidate.

McCain was asked in an interview in Miami whether as president he would meet with Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, a socialist who was snubbed by President Bush after he withdrew Spain's troops from Iraq in 2004.

McCain had told a Spanish newspaper in April that he wanted to improve relations with the NATO ally.

But in Wednesday's interview with Radio Caracol Miami, later broadcast in Spain, McCain offered a series of noncommittal answers.

And at one point, he seemed to suggest that he thought Zapatero might be from Latin America.

"All I can tell you is that I have a clear record of working with leaders in the hemisphere that are friends with us, and standing up to those who are not," McCain said. "And that's judged on the basis of the importance of our relationship with Latin America and the entire region."

In the first of four times he was asked whether he would meet with Zapatero, McCain said he intended to talk to cooperative leaders.

Then he talked about Mexican President Felipe Calderon's efforts to combat drug trafficking.

The Arizona senator is campaigning as the experienced foreign policy hand, and his comments set off liberal bloggers.

Randy Scheunemann, McCain's top foreign policy advisor, said in a statement that McCain was only restating a position on Spain that he had taken before.

Zapatero, commenting in Spain, took a diplomatic tack: "I think it's logical that he show the necessary prudence because first there has to be an electoral process."

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