Nuclear submarine ready to leave Gibraltar

4th February 2005, Comments 0 comments

7 February 2005, GIBRALTAR-The nuclear submarine at the centre of a diplomatic row has been repaired and is ready to leave Gibraltar, the British Defence Ministry said.

7 February 2005

GIBRALTAR-The nuclear submarine at the centre of a diplomatic row has been repaired and is ready to leave Gibraltar, the British Defence Ministry said.

HMS Sceptre has been fully repaired and is technically ready to leave the British territory, the MoD said in a statement.

The presence of the nuclear submarine had caused a diplomatic row after Madrid complained that its presence could represent a danger to neighbouring Spain.

But the Spanish government said it had been re-assured by London after the British MoD gave a written undertaking HMS Sceptre would leave the disputed territory on Wednesday.

"We are still understandably concerned, and we have told the British authorities," Foreign Minister Miguel Angel Moratinos said.

But he added, "not only do we trust our British friends, but we also have their written word" that HMS Sceptre would sail on 9 February.

Madrid formally protested last week against the visit, calling for the vessel to leave "as soon as possible."

British diplomatic sources said the sub would remain in port for routine maintenance after and that the Spanish foreign ministry had been informed.

The row took an unusual turn when Peter Caruana, Gibraltar´s First Minister, said he would complain to London that he had not been informed of the submarine´s visit until he heard about the visit from Madrid.

Caruana thanked Madrid for informing him of the visit but said he will make a formal complaint to London over the inicident.

Sections of the Spanish media suggested the submarine had docked there for repairs and presented a safety risk to neighbouring Spain.

British nuclear-powered subs occasionally dock in Gibraltar, a British possession on the southern Spanish coast, but their visits have been a source of contention with Madrid.

Last year's visit by HMS Tireless led to a Spanish protest, with Madrid regarding its arrival as "unfriendly."

Moratinos initially said its presence showed a "lack of sensitivity" towards the Spanish people, and the Tireless left port two days early in view of the protest.

"I spoke with (British Foreign Secretary) Jack Straw earlier, and he guaranteed the submarine would stay for a week and said he would keep us informed of the situation," said Moratinos, who lauded the "transparency" London had shown over the visit by HMS Sceptre.

However, Moratinos underlined Spain's desire to be "vigilant and ensure there is no danger to Spaniards."

He added that in his view HMS Sceptre's visit "is not comparable to that of the Tireless," but added that Spain would still be asking Britain to halt such visits in future.

Spain was irked by a previous visit from the Tireless to Gibraltar in 2000 when it put into port for almost a year following a problem with its reactor's
cooling system.

On that occasion people living in localities adjoining Gibraltar protested amid fears the sub could leak radioactive material.

A visit in October 2003 by HMS Turbulent also irked Madrid.

Britain argues that Gibraltar provides an important support facility for submarine maintenance.

[Copyright EFE with Expatica]

Subject: Spanish news

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