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Sunday, 14 July, 2002, 12:15 GMT 13:15 UK
EU tells Morocco to quit island
Moroccan soldiers on Perejil
A dozen Moroccan soldiers are on the island
The European Union has called on Morocco to immediately withdraw its troops from a disputed island located off the Moroccan coast, but claimed by Spain.

Spanish coastal patrol off Perejil
Spain has boosted patrols in the area
The current holder of the EU presidency, Denmark, said it was very concerned at the situation created by Morocco and was in full solidarity with Spain regarding the island.

The island - known as Perejil to the Spanish and Leila to the Moroccans - is just 200 metres (220 yards) off the Moroccan shore in the Straits of Gibraltar.

On Thursday, Rabat sent about a dozen troops to the uninhabited island, which is barely the size of a football field, who set up camp and raised the Moroccan flag.

Click here for a map of the area

Spain has reacted by sending warships to the area.

In a short statement the Danish EU presidency said it was "very concerned over the situation created by Morocco on the island of Perejil".

Fraught relations
October 2001: Morocco withdraws Madrid ambassador
January 2002: Morocco says proposed Spanish oil prospection off the Canary Isles is "unfriendly" act
April: Spain says it is up to Morocco to decide whether to reinstate Madrid ambassador
June: Moroccan press attacks Spain over immigration policy
July: Morocco protests at Spanish warships cruising too close to its coast

"The European Union expresses its full solidarity with Spain and urges Morocco to immediately withdraw its forces," it added.

European Commission President Romano Prodi called Moroccan Prime Minister Abderrahmane Youssoufi on Saturday "to express the grave concern of Europe" over the occupation.

Spanish Foreign Minister Ana de Palacio has said Spain will press its claim to the island, near the Spanish North African enclave of Melilla, in a language everyone can understand.

In an interview with the Spanish daily El Mundo, the minister defended the dispatch of warships to waters around Perejil.

But she refused to say what action Spain would take next or how long it would give Morocco to withdraw its troops.

Morocco has rejected withdrawal, saying it wants to use the location to help combat illegal immigration and terrorism.



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See also:

12 Jul 02 | Europe
13 Jul 02 | Media reports
17 Dec 01 | Europe
22 Aug 01 | Europe
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