Spain complains to Britain over clash off Gibraltar

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Spain's government has voiced concern to Britain over an incident in which Gibraltar security forces intercepted a Spanish police boat that had been chasing suspected drug traffickers.

Spain has made "appropriate representations to the British government through normal diplomatic channels to express its concerns to the United Kingdom and the rejection of the government of Spain over the events that occurred," the Spanish foreign ministry said in a statement late on Monday.

It said the incident on Sunday between units of the maritime service of the Civil Guard police force and those of the Royal Gibraltar Police and the Royal Navy in the waters of the Bay of Algeciras off the tiny British territory at the tip of southern Spain.

It gave no further details.

But the association of the Civil Guard police force said its officers were subjected to insults and threats by officers on the Gibraltar police boat which "collided with the Civil Guard boat, which was damaged."

Spanish media said one Civil Guard officer was slightly injured in the incident, which occurred after the arrest of suspected drug traffickers by the Spanish officers.

The Spanish patrol boat later withdrew to the port of Algeciras in southern Spain with the arrested suspects.

A spokesman for the Gibraltar police declined to comment but said it would issue a statement on the incident on Tuesday.

It was the latest in a series of face-offs involving the security forces of the two countries in the waters off Gibraltar over the last two years.

Britain claims a strip of three nautical miles (5.5 kilometres) surrounding Gibraltar as its territorial waters. But Spain does not recognise any waters off Gibraltar as belonging to the territory apart from its ports.

The rocky promontory, which Madrid ceded to London in 1713 under the Treaty of Utrecht, has long fuelled tensions between the two countries.

Madrid argues the 6.5-square-kilometre (2.6-square-mile) territory that is home to around 30,000 people should be returned to Spanish sovereignty.

But its people overwhelmingly rejected an Anglo-Spanish proposal for co-sovereignty in a referendum in 2002.

Spain's Crown Prince Felipe told Britain's Prince Charles in a speech at an official dinner in Madrid last month that their two countries need to resolve their dispute over Gibraltar.

© 2011 AFP

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