MADRID – U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano started her official visit to Spain on Wednesday by honoring the victims of the March 11, 2004, terrorist attacks in Madrid.
Napolitano placed a wreath bearing the colors of the U.S. flag at the monument to the victims of the commuter-train bombings at Madrid’s Atocha station that left 191 people dead.
The U.S. official observed a minute of silence at the monument along with Spain’s secretary of state for security, Antonio Camacho, and Madrid Mayor Alberto Ruiz Gallardon.
Napolitano met with Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, as well as with Spain’s interior and justice ministers, to discuss cooperation in fighting illegal immigration and terrorism.
The U.S. official had met with Spanish Interior Minister Alfredo Perez Rubalcaba last week in Washington and wanted to use her visit to discuss the implementation of the agreement they reached on sharing terrorists’ DNA and fingerprint information.
Napolitano wants to expand the bilateral agreement to include the rest of the European Union, a goal that could be achieved during Spain’s EU presidency in the first half of 2010.
The U.S. official plans to discuss another agreement signed in Washington to expand technology and scientific cooperation in the security area.
The Spanish government has hailed Napolitano’s visit as an example of the new climate of cooperation between Washington and Madrid since President Barack Obama took office.
Bilateral ties were left badly frayed after Zapatero pulled Spain’s 1,300 troops out of Iraq in May 2004.
The premier, who campaigned on a promise to end Spanish involvement in Iraq, was swept into office in March 2004 when his Socialists upset the ruling conservatives in an election held just three days after the terrorist attacks staged in Madrid by Muslim extremists angry over the U.S.-led war in the Middle East.
Zapatero’s predecessor, Jose Maria Aznar, was President George W. Bush’s staunchest supporter in continental Europe.
Spanish troops are serving as part of a NATO-led force in Afghanistan. EFE