Blair faces anger over damaged submarine

Click to follow
The Independent Online

Tony Blair met with a barrage of anger as he arrived in Madrid today over a defective British nuclear-powered submarine stranded in Gibraltar.

Tony Blair met with a barrage of anger as he arrived in Madrid today over a defective British nuclear-powered submarine stranded in Gibraltar.

HMS Tireless, a hunter-killer submarine of a class often used to protect larger British submarines armed with nuclear weapons, has been docked in Gibraltar at Spain's southern tip since May, after a crack was found in its cooling system.

Last week Britain said the Tireless may have a design flaw and recalled 12 identical subs for examination.

Spanish officials point to assurances from Britain that there is no risk of a radiation leak or any other danger to the 250,000 people who live near Gibraltar, a tiny British colony that is itself a bone of contention between the two countries.

Spain claims sovereignty over the Rock but Britain refuses to even discuss the issue.

Spain has complained it has been kept in the dark by Britain about the sub and would like a freer flow of information about its status.

Center-right Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar, who claims a warm relationship with Blair, is facing calls in Spain to be firm with his visitor and urge Britain to tow the Tireless back to Britain for repair.

Antonio Romero, spokesman for the United Left party in the Andalusian regional parliament, urged Aznar not to act like Blair's "lap dog".

"We are not asking him to break off relations with Britain, but rather that he raise with Blair the need to send the Tireless back and keep Gibraltar from becoming a permanent repair base for broken down submarines," he said.

The newspaper El Pais said Aznar will formally ask Blair that Spanish nuclear engineers be allowed to inspect the Tireless.

But the paper also quoted Defense Ministry sources as saying this may not prove very useful because Spain's navy has no nuclear submarines and Spanish experts inspecting the Tireless would not really know what to look for.

The two prime ministers were to share a working lunch and discuss the European Union's efforts to reform its decision-making process as it prepares to expand to as many as 30 members.

They were also to spend Saturday together in an informal visit to a country estate in the central province of Toledo.

Comments