Spanish and U.S. officials failed again Friday to reach agreement on a new treaty to keep U.S. military bases in Spain, sending their negotiations into a critical final phase that will determine the bases' fate.
The most contentious issue for both sides is the U.S. Air Force's 401st Tactical Wing-72 F-16 jet fighters based at Torrejon, just outside Madrid. From the start of negotiations in July, 1986, Spain has demanded that the United States withdraw the planes. Until recently, the United States insisted that it could not do so-that they are a vital element of North Atlantic Treaty Organization defenses.
Spain has been subject to a good deal of pressure from NATO allies to refrain from doing anything that might weaken European defense or American involvement in European defense. Sensitive to this, Spanish officials have insisted that the removal of the F-16s from [Torrejon] would not harm European defenses. Echoing this, [Inocencio Arias], the Spanish spokesman, told reporters Friday, "Spain is not trying to leave Europe."