Spain's "Downing Street Memo": Bush was Set on Attacking Iraq

MADRID - US President George W. Bush threatened nations with retaliation if they did not vote for a UN resolution backing the Iraq war, according to a transcript published Wednesday of a conversation he had with former Spanish prime minister Jose Maria Aznar.

In the transcript of a meeting on February 22, 2003 -- a month before the US-led invasion of Iraq -- published in the El Pais daily, Bush tells Aznar that nations like Mexico, Angola, Chile and Cameroon must know that the security of the United States is at stake.

He says during the meeting on his ranch in Texas that Angola stood to lose financial aid while Chile could see a free trade agreement held up in the US Senate if they did not back the resolution, the left-wing paper said.

The confidential transcript was prepared by Spain's ambassador to the United States at the time, Javier Ruperez, the paper said.

Prior to the US-led invasion of Iraq on March 20, 2003, Washington unsuccessfully lobbied the 15 members of the UN Security Council for a second resolution paving the way for military action against Iraq if Saddam Hussein failed to comply with demands to disarm.

But during the meeting with Aznar, Bush made it clear the US would invade Iraq by the end of March 2003 whether or not there was a UN resolution to authorize it, El Pais reported.

"We have to get rid of Saddam. There are two weeks left. In two weeks we will be ready militarily. We will be in Baghdad at the end of March," Bush said in the transcript which was translated into Spanish by the newspaper.

Victory would come "without destruction", he added.

The meeting between Aznar and Bush came just days after a massive protest in Madrid by more than a million people against the invasion which Aznar's conservative government backed.

Aznar tells Bush in the transcript that he needed Washington's help to get Spanish public opinion behind the invasion. He adds that he is worried by Bush's optimism.

"I am optimistic because I believe I am right. I am at peace with myself," Bush responded.

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