Nuke sub docks at Rock as diplomatic row flares
9 July 2004
GIBRALTAR – The British nuclear submarine HMS Tireless arrived in Gibraltar Friday amid a diplomatic row between Madrid and London.
The submarine sailed into Gibraltar Bay Friday morning, surrounded by several navy patrol boats and maritime police launches and accompanied by a tug.
Spain’s Foreign Minister Miguel Angel Moratinos has warned London that the visit to the British colony was an unfriendly move that could have repercussions on relations between the two countries.
Britain’s ambassador to Spain, Stephen Wright, was also summoned to explain the visit of the submarine, which Britain says is making a short routine stay which meets all required safety standards.
The status of Gibraltar, which occupies a rocky outcrop attached to the tip of southern Spain, has been a subject of contention between the two countries for decades.
The visit by the Tireless to “the Rock” is all the more sensitive in that the vessel spent almost a year moored in Gibraltar in 2000-01 while a fault in the cooling system of its nuclear reactor was repaired.
Local Spaniards protested fiercely, fearing there might be leaks of radioactive substances.
But a British military spokesperson here said that the previous visit was successfully completed and the submarine sailed with a clean bill of health
There have been four nuclear submarine visits in the past eight weeks.
“Gibraltar provides an important facility for the support of submarines,” a spokesman for the British Ministry of Defence in Gibraltar said.
Minister Moratinos said Thursday that London had assured Madrid that the submarine’s visit would be “short and surrounded by the strictest safety measures”, adding he hoped it would spend less than a week at the Gibraltar naval base.
The visit by the submarine is only the latest example of the prickly relationship between Britain and Spain – staunch allies in Iraq and the European Union – when it comes to Gibraltar.
Wright was summoned to the Foreign Ministry last month to hear a protest against the visit of Princess Anne, daughter of Queen Elizabeth II, to Gibraltar to mark the 300th anniversary of British sovereignty over the Rock.
It was ceded by Spain under the 1713 Treaty of Utrecht, but Spain has long demanded it be returned.
[Copyright EFE with Expatica]
Subject: Spanish news