Allied forces using Balearic ports and airports as part of preparation for possible attack on Iraq, e-mail us your views.

By Ray Fleming
THE presence of the US Navy destroyer Oscar Austin and its crew of 350 in Palma yesterday, precipitated protests from the Balearics government which can only be described as totally out of order and completely pointless. When a new Constitution for Spain was written and approved by national vote following the end of the Franco era, it provided for the devolution of some powers to provincial governments. Given the strong regional feelings in various parts of Spain this was a wise move and in keeping with trends in other European countries. However, as with virtually every country practising a federal or devolved system of government, Spain decided to retain for the central government certain functions of which foreign policy and defence are among the most important. The Balearics therefore has no foreign or defence policy and cannot have one unless it becomes an independent state which is, of course, a very different matter. It is therefore quite wrong for Francesc Antich, the leader of the government of the Balearics to protest publicly to Madrid, as he has done, at the presence of the Oscar Austin and demand that it should leave immediately. If non–government groups or individuals wish to protest they have the right to do so but Sr Antich is bound in this matter by the policy of the national government and he makes the Balearics look ridiculous by pretending otherwise. The current crisis over Iraq makes this a particularly sensitive issue. The best thing is for those who want to support the United States and its serving men and women to offer them a warm welcome and for those who are opposed to protest in a dignified manner as individuals.

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