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06MADRID780 2006-03-31 10:50:00 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Madrid
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1. (C) Former Spanish President Felipe Gonzalez told
Ambassador Aguirre March 24 that the ETA ceasefire represents
the "best chance ever" for ending ETA violence once and for
all. Gonzalez, still one of the leading luminaries of the
Spanish Socialist Party, but not in the inner circle of
current Spanish President Zapatero, claimed the opportunity
for peace with ETA now is more realistic than during the
14-month truce ETA implemented in 1998-1999, during the Aznar
administration. Gonzalez emphasized that this was
"information, not opinion" and stressed this was an historic
opportunity. Gonzalez said that Zapatero was "playing it
right," and that Zapatero has said that if ETA comes forward
with more specific ideas, Zapatero would be prepared to ask
Parliament this summer for approval to begin negotiations.
Gonzalez told the Ambassador that the government is also
working hard on the key issue of providing funding/living
expenses for the families of imprisoned ETA terrorists.

2. (C) On Iran, Gonzalez claimed that Putin, probably during
his recent visit to Madrid, had told him that Russia would
agree to enrich Iranian uranium in return for spent fuel.
Gonzalez asserted that Putin had also told him that Russia
would work to get G-8 agreement to guarantee non-aggression
against Iran if Iran agreed to the deal. Gonzalez claimed
that he is in contact with the President of Iran and "major
Ayatollahs" on this issue.

3. (C) Gonzalez also discussed the Maghreb, particularly
Western Sahara, saying that at this stage there is little
hope for resolution. But, Gonzalez asserted, the Moroccans
are "honest players," in contrast, he said, to the Algerians
who are not. Echoing the Zapatero government, he urged a
more visible and active US role on the Sahara issue. The
Ambassador said the time was not right for such a role and if
there would be a time in the future, the goal must be finite
and achievable. Ambassador Aguirre also explained that as
President Bush neared the end of his term of office, he would
not want to renew engagement and then leave unfinished

4. (C) Ambassador Aguirre conveyed greetings from former
President Bush, who had recently met with Gonzalez while they
were guests of the current President of Panama. He thanked
Gonzalez for meeting with WHA A/S Tom Shannon during
Shannon's recent visit to Madrid. Gonzalez agreed the visit
was useful and noted that for both Spain and the US the issue
of Cuba and its eventual transition offered great
opportunities and great risks.

5. (C) During the course of the meeting, Gonzalez freely
acknowledged to the Ambassador that he has been on the
margins of the Zapatero government, but as Zapatero has
become more confident in his role, he is becoming more
willing to listen to his advice and that of other previous
major party figures.

6. (C) Gonzalez claimed to the Ambassador that Secretary Rice
had "reached out to him" and suggested that he meet with her.
He also said that this discussion with her was not
orchestrated through the Zapatero government.

7. (C) Comment: Former President Gonzalez is well regarded by
PSOE stalwarts, who would like to see him more involved in a
role similar to an elder statesman working alongside current
PSOE leaders. No doubt Gonzalez has an excellent grasp of
world issues particularly those involving Latin America and
maintains contacts with many world leaders, current and
former that would be helpful to Zapatero,s government. The
question is how extensively Zapatero and company will use
him. The Ambassador plans to meet with Gonzalez
periodically; from our perspective, Gonzalez is a useful
interlocutor but clearly has his own agenda as he deals with
various international issues -- which sometimes coincides
with ours but at times does not.