Spanish PM promises fast trains to Portugal

ZURICH - Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Zapatero has promised FIFA a high-speed rail link with Portugal if the neighbours win their joint bid to host the 2018 World Cup.

"Today Spain is the European country with the broadest network of high speed trains and Spain and Portugal will be connected by these trains as well," Zapatero said in a presentation to FIFA's executive committee on Thursday.

"We could organise a World Cup next month if it were necessary," he said, adding that an outstanding network of railways and highways already connected the big cities of Spain and Portugal.

Neither he nor Portuguese Prime Minister Jose Socrates made mention of the financial crisis gripping their economies which has forced both governments to consider austerity measures that have led to concerns about the rail link.

FIFA will choose the host nations for the 2018 and 2022 World Cups later on Thursday. Spain and Portugal are competing against England, Russia and a joint bid from Netherlands and Belgium.

In his presentation to FIFA, Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte said the economies of the Low Countries were in a good position to host the tournament.

"It is important to have strong economies backing the bid. We have two strong economies here," he said.

Spain and Portugal have budgeted the lowest amount for stadiums, saying they will spend almost $2 billion, compared to $2.4 billion for Netherlands and Belgium, $2.5 billion for England and $3.8 billion for Russia.