2 March 2004
LONDON – The chief minister of Gibraltar spoke Tuesday of his people’s desire to remain British at a church service to mark 300 years of UK rule.
Peter Caruana told the congregation at St Clement Danes church in London that Gibraltarians “wish to remain part of the Great British family”, the BBC reported .
British Conservative Party leader Michael Howard and Labour Party peer Baroness Symons gave readings to hundreds of guests.
The sovereignty of the Rock remains a hotly contested issue.
Mr Caruana said: “We value and wish to retain our links with Britain.
“We wish to respect our neighbour Spain but Gibraltarians wish to remain part of the Great British family.”
Former Conservative leaders Iain Duncan Smith and Baroness Thatcher joined other MPs, clergy, members of the military and foreign diplomats at the service.
Duncan Smith said: “It was a very strong message, that not only British people but Gibraltarians want to remain British.
“It should remain British, there should be no negotiation.”
Duncan-Smith also expressed disappointment that more senior members of the government had not attended.
Foreign Secretary Jack Straw asserted in July 2002 that Britain and Spain had reached a “broad agreement” over Gibraltar’s sovereignty – a statement which prompted widespread protests from Gibraltarians.
A Foreign Office spokesman told BBC News Online the position on Gibraltar remained unchanged.
“Our aim remains to make a more stable and prosperous future for Gibraltar and to resolve the problems it faces. We are continuing the dialogue with Spain and Gibraltar.”
He said no date was set for any further meetings for talks over sovereignty.
Last year an influential group of MPs warned a joint sovereignty deal for Gibraltar was wrong in principle and unworkable.
A poll of Gibraltarians in 2002 rejected a proposal for shared UK-Spanish sovereignty.
But Spain said the result had no value and full sovereignty was non-negotiable.
The Rock was captured from Spain in 1704 during the war of Spanish succession by a combined Anglo-Dutch fleet.
It became a British colony in 1830, having had its British sovereignty formalised in 1713.
Subject: Spanish news