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Gibraltar: Third term for Caruana

Caruana arrives to vote with wife Christina
Caruana forced the British government to change policy.

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GIBRALTAR (Reuters) -- Chief Minister Peter Caruana won a third term in office in Gibraltar Friday, as voters backed his fierce resistance to Spain's attempt to win sovereignty over the British colony.

The election on Thursday took place a year after Caruana called a surprise referendum which overwhelmingly rejected negotiations between London and Madrid to share sovereignty over the enclave on Spain's southern coast.

The referendum was non-binding but its 99-percent "No" vote effectively derailed sovereignty talks. It forced the British government to state it would not ignore the wishes of Gibraltarians.

"Our record on international affairs has been recognized by the electorate, and I now pledge to focus on domestic issues," Caruana said in his acceptance speech.

Gibraltar remains a rare point of dispute between Britain and Spain, two European Union members and NATO partners whose prime ministers, Tony Blair and Jose Maria Aznar, are close personal friends.

The 47-year-old Caruana, who leads the center-right Gibraltar Social Democrats, won 51 percent of the vote.

He comfortably beat his chief rival Joe Bossano, 64, of the center-left Gibraltar Socialist Labour Party, who received 40 percent of votes.

Turnout was lower than expected, with some 14,610 voters, or roughly 75 percent of the electorate. The new government will be sworn in this afternoon by Gibraltar's governor.

Spain ceded the barren outcrop to Britain in the 1713 Treaty of Utrecht, but has been trying to take it back ever since.

Copyright 2003 Reuters. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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