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UK prepared to share Gibraltar

Gibraltar border
Britain gained possession of Gibraltar in 1704  

LONDON, England -- Britain is ready to share sovereignty of Gibraltar with Spain after 300 years of dispute.

UK Foreign Secretary Jack Straw told parliament that after 12 months of talks with Spain, some broad principles had been agreed.

"These include that Britain and Spain should share sovereignty over Gibraltar," he said.

Straw told the House of Commons that the final decision would rest with the 35,000 residents of Gibraltar -- who have so far strongly opposed joint sovereignty.

Straw said Gibraltar should retain its customs and way of life and its people would keep the right to British nationality, but also have the right to obtain Spanish nationality.

"The only way of seeking for Gibraltar a stable and prosperous future is through a comprehensive and permanent settlement of this dispute with Spain," he added.

Spain put off talks which were due to be held on Friday in Madrid on the issue of Gibraltar after a cabinet reshuffle.

Straw said they would be postponed until "after the summer," but gave no further details.

Shadow UK foreign secretary Michael Ancram said the statement was "a disgrace," and the process was doomed.

"This is what we have feared has long been cooked up in the dishonourable talks -- a shabby and dishonourable process," he said.

Straw outlined the broad agreement reached so far between the UK and Spain on the principles that should underpin a "lasting settlement."

The first of these, he said, was that "Britain and Spain should share sovereignty over Gibraltar, including the disputed territory of the Isthmus."

Earlier, Gibraltar's chief minister, Peter Caruana, said the suspension of the talks must mark the end of sovereignty negotiations with Spain.

Caruana, who boycotted the talks which were fiercely opposed by many Gibraltarians, said: "The question now is whether it is put to bed in a clear and unambiguous fashion."


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