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Wednesday, 31 October, 2001, 14:11 GMT
Gibraltar demands veto on future status
Gibraltar
Gibraltar has been in British hands since 1704
The government of Gibraltar has said it will not attend any talks with Spain and the UK unless it has a veto over the colony's future.


It would be unacceptable for there to be any deadlines or threats to attempt to coerce Gibraltar in any way

Gibraltar Government statement
In an angry statement, it said that any threats or deadlines aimed at "coercing" Gibraltar into a deal over its sovereignty were "equally unacceptable".

But the Spanish Foreign Minister Josep Pique said that Gibraltar could not have a voice in the discussions equal to that of Spain and Britain.

The statements follow reports that the two countries - who both claim sovereignty over the rocky outcrop - had forged a secret deal to settle the dispute by the end of next year. They are set to hold talks next month.

Demand for a voice

"There is absolutely no prospect of the Gibraltar Government participating in any process of dialogue based on the objectives of Spanish or shared sovereignty," a statement said.

The colony's government demanded a "voice distinct from the United Kingdom" and a veto on all issued discussed.

Spanish Foreign Minister Josep Pique
Spanish Foreign Minister Josep Pique opposes a referendum
It condemned a denial issued by the British Foreign Office that a secret deal had been forged as "bland" and "insufficient" and called for a more forceful rejection of the reports.

Britain and Spain are keen to resolve the dispute which has soured relations between the two countries and been a hurdle to negotiations within the European Union.

But Gibraltar's Government sees in this a threat.

"It would be unacceptable for there to be any deadlines or threats to attempt to coerce Gibraltar in any way or to mortgage our European Union rights," the government's statement said.

Referendum dispute

Britain's Europe Minister, Peter Hain, told the British parliament on Tuesday that the UK Government stood by its commitment to hold a referendum on any change the colony's status.


The people of Gibraltar cannot have the right of veto over matters being discussed by two sovereign states

Spanish Foreign Minister Josep Pique
But Mr Pique warned against any popular vote among the UK colony's population.

"The people of Gibraltar cannot have the right of veto over matters being discussed by two sovereign states," he told the El Pais newspaper, though he said that he hoped the colony's chief minister would attend the discussions.

Mr Pique will meet UK Foreign Minister Jack Straw on 20 November for talks on Gibraltar's future.

See also:

29 Oct 01 | Europe
'Deadline set' for Gibraltar deal
14 Sep 00 | Europe
Gibraltar allows sub repairs
18 Aug 00 | Europe
Gibraltar: A rocky road
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