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Zapatero, Blair to meet for talks on Gibraltar

15 October 2004

BUDAPEST – Spanish prime minister José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero and British premier Tony Blair are to meet for talks on the future of Gibraltar, it was announced Friday.

The two leaders agreed to meet “in the next few months” while holding talks in Hungary.

Zapatero claimed he brought up the subject of the Rock during a conversation with Blair at a summit of social-democratic leaders in Hungary.

He refused to disclose details of what will be discussed at the talks, but did concede that “the thoughts of the people of Gibraltar will be an element which needs to be present” during the talks.

But Zapatero added that “what is relevant is what stance each government takes on the future of Gibraltar”.

The residents of the Rock have consistently voted against conceding sovereignty to Spain.

Madrid expressed its anger to London in August when the Princess Royal, Princess Anne flew to the colony to celebrate its 300th anniversary.   

Foreign ministers from both countries are to meet 27 October for talks which will include Gibraltar.

Meanwhile, earlier, Zapatero told Blair that the war in Iraq had been a “massive mistake”, political sources said Friday.

Talk at the summit late Thursday turned to Iraq when Blair sought to justify the war to oust former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein, in which he has been Washington’s main ally.

“Zapatero reiterated that the war in Iraq had been a massive mistake, as evidenced by what is happening there at the moment,” a source said.

Several leaders, among them Chile’s President Ricardo Lagos and Canadian Prime Minister Paul Martin supported Zapatero’s position, another source said.

Only the host of summit, Hungarian Prime Minister Ferenc Gyurcsany, appeared to side with Blair, who has called for “realism” in dealing with the Iraqi situation.

Hungarian news agency MTI reported Blair as telling a press conference Friday that independent of the position of each country before the war, every government must now focus its efforts on the future of Iraq.

Eleven centre-left leaders from around the world are attending the sixth annual summit on progressive governance which began Thursday evening at Lake Balaton in western Hungary and ends later Friday.

[Copyright EFE with Expatica]

Subject: Spanish news