SPAIN – Spanish Prime Minister

SPAIN’S FORMER Prime Minister, Jose Maria Aznar, has told a parliamentary commission that his conscience is clear regarding the Madrid bombings earlier this year. 191 people died and more than 1,800 were injured when four packed commuter trains were bombed on March 11.

Mr Aznar has been accused of misleading the country about the attacks, in a failed bid for re-election, however, he said it was others who had sought to gain political advantage.

Many Spaniards believe that the bombings were carried out in retaliation for Spain’s support of the US-led war in Iraq. The former Prime Minister has been criticised for being too quick to blame the attack on the armed Basque separatist group Eta, instead of Islamic extremists.

Mr Aznar remembered the victims of the attack at the start of his court appearance, and said government security forces acted quickly and efficiently in the aftermath of the bombings. He said it was unfair to accuse him of being eager to blame Eta, as others had come to the same conclusion.

A public protest outside the Spanish parliament coincided with Mr Aznar’s appearance. Its organisers said they were sickened by the Madrid bombings perpetually being used as a political football.