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Zapatero sidesteps Somali pirate ransom issue
thinkSPAIN , Tuesday, April 29, 2008

In an interview on TVE's '59 minutos' programme last night, José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero deliberately avoided confirming whether or not a ransom payment had been made to secure the safe release of the 26 crew of the 'Playa de Bakio' tuna fishing boat seized by pirates on Sunday, April 20th. The boat and its crew were released unharmed last Saturday and arrived in Seychelle Islands earlier this morning, prior to being repatriated.

The recently re-elected president of the Spanish government said that Foreign Affairs and Environment ministers, Miguel Ángel Moratinos and Elena Espinosa respectively, will give a joint statement to the House of Congress to explain the negotiation process, but commented that every effort had been made throughout to guarantee the safety of the crew, sixteen of whom are Spanish, "the result has been positive, and that's what counts," he said.

When asked about the Health ministry's handling of last weekend's sunflower oil scare, Mr Zapatero said that "it's better to be criticised for being too cautious than for not doing enough to protect the public" - the warning not to buy or consume sunflower oil has now been lifted after it was established that the 125 tonnes of a contaminated batch from Ukraine either did not reach, or have been removed from, retail outlets.

Concerning the leadership crisis in the Partido Popular, the socialist leader suggested that the real problem could be the opposition's lack of a cohesive "political project," and that if, and when, the party ever manages to define this, "a natural leader will emerge."

With respect to the Basque regional president's plans to hold a public referendum about the region's independent status, Mr Zapatero warned Mr Ibarretxe that he would not be prepared to tolerate "adventures."

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