Spanish opposition defends visit to north African enclave

15th September 2010, Comments 0 comments

Spain's opposition Popular Party defended Wednesday a planned visit to the Spanish enclave of Melilla on the north African coast by its leader which Morocco's ruling Istiqlal party deems "provocative."

Popular Party leader Mariano Rajoy will travel Thursday to Melilla, which was blockaded last month by demonstrators in Morocco who prevented trucks from making food deliveries in a dispute over alleged police violence against Moroccans entering the city.

Moroccan Prime Minister Abbas El Fassi, the leader of the conservative Istiqlal party, sent a letter Rajoy expressing his party's "profound regret and total rejection of this provocative visit", Morocco's official MAP news agency reported.

PP spokeswoman Soraya Saenz de Santamaria said she was unaware of any such letter during an interview with Spanish public television even as she defended Rajoy's right to visit the enclave.

"No Spaniard has to explain to anyone where he travels in Spanish territory. I ask that the Spanish government defend this visit by the leader of the opposition to a city that is as Spanish as any other," she said.

Last month Spain's ruling Socialist Party condemned a visit to Melilla last month, while tensions were still high over the blockade of the city, by former PP prime minister Jose Maria Aznar as "disloyal" and "irresponsible".

Madrid in May reaffirmed Spanish sovereignty over Melilla and Ceuta, another tiny enclave on the north African coast, after the Moroccan government called for a dialogue on the matter.

Morocco considers the two enclaves, which ahve been ruled by Spain for some five centuries, as "occupied cities."

© 2010 AFP

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