Spain's new leader condemned America's "shock and awe" strategy for combatting terror, while U.S. politicians accused the Spaniards of appeasing terrorists by voting out of office the governing party that supported the war in Iraq.
Rather than defeat terrorism, U.S. military actions risk fueling it, said Spain's Prime Minister-elect Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero (search), who has made clear he prefers Democratic challenger John Kerry over President Bush in the White House.
Zapatero said Wednesday that the U.S.-led occupation in Iraq "is turning into a fiasco" and he will stick by his decision to pull 1,300 Spanish troops out of Iraq unless the United Nations takes control of peacekeeping.
"Combatting terrorism with bombs, with operations of shock and awe, with Tomahawk missiles, is not the way to beat terrorism. Not like that. It is a way of generating more radicalism, more people who can wind up being tempted by using violence," Zapatero said.
"Terrorism is fought by the state of law," he said in an hour-long interview with Onda Cero radio. "I believe this is what Europe and the international community must debate."
Top U.S. Republicans, however, accused the Spaniards of giving in to terrorist groups by turning out of office the party of Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar (search), a close U.S. ally.
House Speaker Rep. Dennis Hastert (search), R-Ill., said Spain was "a nation who succumbed ... to threats of terrorism, changed their government."
"Here's a country who stood against terrorism and had a huge terrorist act within their country, and they chose to change their government and to, in a sense, appease terrorists," Hastert said.
Added GOP Rep. Henry Hyde of Illinois, chairman of the House International Relations Committee: "The vote in Spain was a great victory for Al Qaeda."
House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (search), R-Texas, expressed his condolences to the people of Spain, particularly to the victims of last week's deadly railway bombings in Madrid. But DeLay said he hoped Zapatero will come to believe in the U.S. position — "that Iraq is central to winning" the fight against terrorism.
The lawmakers' comments were harsher than those coming from the White House in recent days.
When Bush was asked Tuesday whether the Spanish vote gave terrorists reason to believe that they can influence elections and policy, he replied: "I think terrorists will kill innocent life in order to try to get the world to cower. I think these are cold-blooded killers."
The election defeat Sunday of Aznar's Popular Party marked the first time a government that backed the Iraq war has been voted out of office. The elections were shaken by train bombings that killed 201 people in the Spanish capital three days earlier.
On Thursday, five suspects in the bombings were scheduled to appear in court. They are two Indians and three Moroccans, including Jamal Zougam, considered the main suspect.
The attacks led to accusations that Aznar's support of the Iraq war had made Spain a target for terrorism. Angry voters turned to Zapatero, who campaigned against the war and the stationing of Spanish troops in Iraq.
Zapatero's threatened troop withdrawal has worried U.S., British and some other world leaders, who say pulling out of Iraq after the bombings would amount to a victory for terrorists.
Zapatero, who is putting together a Socialist government to take over next month, was asked how he might respond if Bush personally asked him to reconsider pulling Spanish troops from Iraq. "I will listen to Mr. Bush, but my position is very firm and very clear," he said.
Zapatero, 43, is not alone in Europe in his criticism of the U.S.-led campaign in Iraq, undertaken by the Bush administration despite international opposition and seen by many as a detour from the real fight against terrorism.
After initially pointing the finger at Basque separatists, the Spanish government has since said it is investigating a top suspect's possible links to the Al Qaeda terrorist network.
Some 5,000 supporters gathered outside the headquarters of Aznar's party Wednesday, accusing Zapatero of being soft on terrorism. Waving flags and banners, they protested Zapatero's upset win.
"Zapatero, president of Al Qaeda!" "Zapatero with terrorism!" and "Zapatero resign!" they chanted.
The protesters left about 30 minutes after the Popular Party's defeated candidate, Mariano Rajoy, appeared and greeted the crowd from a balcony.