Aussies blast Spain and Philippine cowardice


Australia aggravated a diplomatic row with Spain yesterday by accusing the socialist government of encouraging terrorists.

Brushing aside the furious response to earlier comments pointing the finger at Madrid, Alexander Downer, the foreign minister, said he would not apologise.

He said that Spain and the Philippines needed "to face up to the truth" that by withdrawing their contingents from Iraq they had allowed themselves to be exploited by terrorists.

"There is no point in trying to scurry away from the truth," Mr Downer said. "I am sensitive about the fact that terrorists use the examples of Spain and the Philippines to put pressure on Australia.

"If you accede to the demands of terrorists, they will exploit the acceding to their demand . . . We are not going to apologise. We shall let bygones be bygones."


The rift began last weekend when the Islamic Tawhid group, which claimed to be the European wing of al-Qa'eda, threatened Australia with attacks unless it pulled out of Iraq.

Canberra said it would not give in to threats that the country would be attacked with "columns of rigged cars". The government said it would not follow the example of Spain and the Philippines.

Manila described Mr Downer's comments as "narrow-minded".

Spain and the Philippines are in denail about how their actions betrayed the coalition and made it more dangerous for everyone.


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