Royal couple fly into colonial storm

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King Juan Carlos and Queen Sofia of Spain flew into a diplomatic storm yesterday on a two-day visit to the Spanish enclaves of Ceuta and Melilla in north Africa.

On the first such visit for 70 years, the Spanish monarchs were greeted enthusiastically in Ceuta by thousands who draped the city with scarlet and gold, the colours of the Spanish flag. But in Morocco, hundreds of angry demonstrators waved Moroccan flags and condemned Spain for "occupying Moroccan territory".

Morocco claims the tiny enclaves, although Madrid says they were Spanish 400 years before Morocco existed. Up to 1,000 Moroccan protesters demonstrated at Beni Enzar, the border town between Morocco and Melilla, halting cross-border traffic. Their banners read: "We want Spanish colonialism out of Ceuta and Melilla. That's enough colonialism" and "Spain occupies Moroccan territory".

Further demonstrations were planned outside the Spanish embassy in Rabat, when politicians planned to hand a letter of protest to the Spanish ambassador. Morocco withdrew its ambassador from Madrid "for consultations" over the "regrettable" visit.

King Mohamed of Morocco is to make a speech today, marking the 32nd anniversary of his country's "green march" into Western Sahara, which was administered by Spain until 1975.