Spain-US thrash out new pact

The United States and Spain July 1 signed a new friendship, defense, and cooperation agreement six weeks after the official expiration date, writes Monitor special correspondent Ana Martinez-Soler.

The new agreement, similar to others with NATO countries, marks the beginning of a bilateral relationship that recognizes political change in Spain with the establishment of a democratic system.

Expiration of the 1975 treaty was extended until Spain's became a member of NATO. However, delicate negotiations, officially termed ''secondary details,'' continued long after the deadline with no apparent progress until recently.

Under the agreement, Spanish diplomats said Spanish sovereignty was ''safeguarded.'' Former US military bases in Torrejon, Saragossa, Moron, and Rota, where about 10,000 US military personnel are stationed, will become Spanish bases, although the United States will be allowed to use them. However, Spain holds veto power over US base use in conflicts involving countries with whom Spain maintains friendly relations.

This safeguarding was a major snag in negotiations and is considered here to be a major victory for Premier Leopoldo Calvo Sotelo's weakened government, which last month lost any guarantee of eventual sovereignty over the disputed British colony of Gibraltar.

Under the new agreement, the US increased financial aid by almost 300 percent - to $400 million a year - in the form of below-market-rate loans for purchase of US military equipment.

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