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Tuesday, 16 January, 2001, 17:41 GMT
Greenpeace activists arrested
Greenpeace banner
Protesters put over their message: "For a Nuclear-Free Sea"
By Flora Botsford in Madrid

Police in Gibraltar have arrested eight protesters from the environmental group, Greenpeace, who attempted to board the British nuclear submarine, HMS Tireless.

It is the latest in a series of protests against the continued presence of the broken-down submarine, which environmental campaigners see as a potential radioactive hazard.

The Greenpeace activists from Spain, Germany, Austria and Italy arrived in speedboats and rubber dinghies in the early hours of Tuesday morning.

Greenpeace protester are arrested
British navy personnel arrest the protesters
According to police reports, they were immediately surrounded before reaching their target: a broken-down British nuclear submarine, the Tireless, which has been in Gibraltar since last May despite widespread public protest.

But a spokesman for Greenpeace said they managed to get to the submarine and unfurl a banner with the slogan, "For a Nuclear-Free Sea", before eight of the protesters were arrested.

They are later expected to appear in court and may be charged with illegally entering the British territory.

On-going dispute

The continued presence of HMS Tireless has severely strained relations between Britain, Spain and Gibraltar ever since the discovery of a crack in the submarine's cooling pipe broad the vessel limping into port.

The UK Government has admitted that the breakdown is more serious than at first thought and has withdrawn twelve other submarines of a similar type from military service.

Spain has so far accepted British assurances that the submarine poses no risk to public health, but it wants the repairs finished by March.

Gibraltar's elected government has been working hard to placate public opinion on the Rock by carrying out its own nuclear-safety tests.

Local environmental campaigners say that even a small leak of radioactive fluid from the pipe could contaminate a radius of up to 100km.

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