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NAVAL STATION ROTA, Spain — If war against Iraq is “inevitable,” Spain will allow the United States to use its military bases.

Spanish Foreign Minister Ana Palacio told Spain’s Parliament members in Madrid on Thursday that the government will “adopt all the measures that derive from the responsibilities assumed with countries friends and allies,” including “the use of the military bases.”

Spain has allowed U.S. forces to use and station servicemembers at Naval Station Rota, north of Cadiz, and Moron Air Base, southeast of Seville, since the early 1950s. A defense pact signed last April extended the partnership.

“In the event a military intervention in Iraq becomes inevitable, the government will not shy away from its political convictions,’ Palacio said in a speech.

She did not say whether Spain would back the United States in a unilateral attack. She also did not mention whether Spain would contribute any of its own forces.

The foreign minister’s statement is the first time the Spanish government has publicly acknowledged that the U.S. military could use the bases for a possible war against Iraq. Her speech came a day after both French and German leaders announced they would push for a peaceful solution to the Iraqi conflict.

Between 6,000 and 7,000 active-duty U.S. military personnel, their families and Defense Department civilians are stationed at Rota and Moron.

The bases serve largely as key stopping points for cargo aircraft and their crews traveling between the continental United States and the Middle East or Europe. Most ships pick up supplies and troops in Rota upon entering or leaving the Mediterranean Sea.

The installations — about halfway geographically between the States and the Middle East — were key hubs during the 1991 Persian Gulf War.

Spanish socialist lawmakers have criticized Spain’s center-right government for allowing U.S. forces to use the military bases in any action against Iraq.

Andalusia regional leader Manuel Chaves sent a letter to President Jose Maria Aznar earlier last week demanding that he not allow the United States to use the bases in an attack.

One political party planned to protest any war against Iraq in front of the U.S. Consulate in Seville this week, according to local media reports.

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