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Monday, 29 October, 2001, 15:29 GMT
Spain and Morocco in diplomatic row
Moroccan immigrants on helicopter
Hundreds of Moroccan migrants try to cross the Mediterranean to Spain
By the BBC's David Bamford in Rabat

Morocco's ambassador to Spain has arrived back in Morocco after being recalled from his post by the Moroccan Government

Abdel Salam Baraka's return is a clear sign of Morocco's anger with Madrid and indicates a further deterioration in relations between the two countries.

But the Spanish foreign ministry says it has received no explanation as to why Morocco has taken this action. A foreign ministry official in Spain said they are at a loss to explain why Morocco has recalled its ambassador, saying they had been under the impression that relations with Morocco were restored to normal.

This was reflected in the participation by Spain in the mediterranean foreign ministers meeting held in Morocco last week.

As far as was known, there was no diplomatic row between the Spanish foreign minister Josep Pique, and his Moroccan counterpart Mohammed Benaissa during the conference.

And four weeks ago, Mr Pique had been received by King Mohammed VI of Morocco.

Migrants

The Moroccan foreign ministry simply said the decision to recall the ambassador was due to a number of Spanish attitudes and positions with regard to Morocco.

King Sidi Mohammed VI of Morocco
The Moroccan king has become involved in the row

Certainly relations have been strained throughout the summer, particularly over a vitriolic exchange in the media between the king and Mr Pique over who was to blame for the wave of illegal immigrants reaching Spain by sea from Morocco.

The Moroccan ambassador, commenting on his departure reportedly said everything that had happened in recent months had left its mark.

The time had come, he said, to clarify their bilateral relations.

Last week's conference in Morocco was intended as a Mediterranean showcase of unity between Europe and Arab north Africa.

This diplomatic spat across the straight of Gibraltar does not bode well for this initiative, aimed at improving cultural tolerance.

See also:

04 Sep 01 | Africa
Morocco's king hits back at Spain
22 Aug 01 | Europe
Spanish worry over immigrant rise
19 Aug 01 | Europe
Spain nets 550 illegal immigrants
19 Jun 00 | Europe
Trafficking: A human tragedy
30 Jul 00 | Media reports
King Mohammed - one year on
15 Jan 01 | Country profiles
Country profile: Spain
26 Jul 01 | Country profiles
Country profile: Morocco
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