Terrorists will seek to affect the outcome of the US presidential election as they did in Spain with the Madrid train attacks, the former Spanish prime minister warned on Saturday.
Jose Maria Aznar, making his first US visit since voters ousted his conservative party days after the March 11 train bombings, did not say where terrorists would likely strike, nor did he specify what outcome they would desire in the presidential election, but he described the attempt as a certainty.
"It's important to realize that the terrorists will do all they can to disrupt the upcoming US election," Aznar said on the second day of a visit to California. "They are going to do everything in their power to have the United States fail."
The former prime minister, who is scheduled to meet with President George W. Bush in Washington tomorrow, made the remarks during a visit to Chapman University to receive the school's Global Citizen Medal at a gala dinner.
The university, which includes US Ambassador to Spain George Argyros among its alumni, previously bestowed its Global Citizen Medal on the first President George Bush and President Gerald Ford.
Aznar was one of the Bush administration's staunchest allies during the invasion to oust Saddam Hussein, despite widespread opposition among the Spanish public. He wasn't running, but Aznar's Popular Party lost general elections to the Socialists three days after the Madrid train bombings, which killed 191 people. Aznar's government initially blamed the bombing on Basque terrorists, but evidence of al-Qaeda's responsibility emerged within 48 hours.
"The results of the elections in Spain would have been different if not for what happened on March 11," Aznar told the crowd at Chapman, a small university about 56km southeast of Los Angeles.
Aznar defended his unpopular support of the Iraq war, describing it as a difficult but necessary position to defeat Islamic terrorism.
"I did what I had to do," he said at a news conference after listening to students present research papers on Spain's economy, foreign policy and its long struggle with the violent Basque separatist movement in the country's north.
Aznar gently rebuked one student, 21-year-old Ian Peckham of Walnut Creek, whose paper suggested that the US threatens world peace and stability with a unilateral approach to foreign policy.
"America needs to show more humility to Europe and the international community," Peckham told the ex-prime minister seated next to him on stage.
"It's very interesting, very intelligently stated," a laughing Aznar told Peckham. "But I don't agree with you ... You're unfair to your own country. Your country is better than you said."