UN envoy recalled by Spain in Iraq row

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Spain ordered its permanent representative to the United Nations to break his holiday and return to New York after he said the invasion of Iraq was "questionable'' if no weapons of mass destruction were found.

Inocencio Arias caused controversy last week when he told a summer school that finding the arms was "the principal reason" for Spain's support for the war.

Mr Arias, who represented Spain on the UN Security Council in negotiations to win backing for the invasion, told students in El Escorial that the failure to discover any arms "threw everything into doubt". The following day Mr Arias told a meeting in Santander that the US had attacked Iraq "because it was cheaper" than attacking North Korea.

The government has declined to comment on the reasons for the ambassador's recall. But Mr Arias's remarks placed him at odds with Jose Maria Aznar's administration, which has been one of America's staunchest allies over Iraq.Spain argued at the Security Council that the existence of arms of mass destruction had been proved by previous UN resolutions and Iraq had not demonstrated it had destroyed them.

A spokesman for the opposition United Left party said Mr Arias was being forced to pay for the "political fraud" perpetrated by the government in justifying Spain's support for the war.

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