Spanish politician demands UK remove submarine

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The Independent Online

A leading Spanish politician today urged Spain to pressure Britain to remove a damaged nuclear submarine being repaired in Gibraltar.

A leading Spanish politician today urged Spain to pressure Britain to remove a damaged nuclear submarine being repaired in Gibraltar.

Manuel Chaves, president of the southern Andalusian region, said Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar should tell British counterpart Tony Blair when they meet on Friday to remove the stricken vessel.

Chaves said information initially submitted by the British and backed by Aznar's government was incorrect.

"The problem is much more serious and the time needed to repair it doesn't finish this year but in March of 2001," Chaves said.

HMS Tireless has been docked in Gibraltar since May 19. British officials initially said the submarine had a very small coolant leak in its propulsion system and insisted there was no danger of a radiation spill from the nuclear-powered engines.

Investigations have since shown that the leak is bigger than expected and that it will take longer to repair.

Earliuer this month, Britain decided to recall for maintenance checks its other 11 nuclear-powered hunter-killer submarines it possesses after what happened to the Tireless.

Spanish Defence Minister Federico Trillo said yesterday he did not doubt Britain's word that the Tireless still posed no threat to Spain and said he accepted that Spanish officials could not board the submarine.

Meanwhile, a group of experts selected by the government of Gibraltar today began drawing up a new report on the submarine given the latest delay in its repairs.

Gibraltar, with a population of some 30,000, has expressed serious concern over the presence of the submarine arguing that its port was not suitable for the reparation work involved.

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