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Spanish King Begins Controversial Visit to North African Enclaves

Spain's King Juan Carlos is in the Spanish enclave of Ceuta on the North African coast for a visit that has ignited controversy in Morocco.

The mayor of Ceuta greeted the monarch, who arrived Monday by helicopter to cheers from thousands of flag-waving residents. In an address, the Spanish king said he came to express Spain's "affection and support" for the enclave's citizens.

Morocco last week recalled its ambassador to Madrid to protest the king's visit to Ceuta and Spain's other North African coastal enclave, Melilla. The Rabat government considers both enclaves as occupied Moroccan territory.

Spanish authorities note the cities have been under Spanish control for more than 400 years, longer than Morocco has been a sovereign state.

The governments in Madrid and Rabat have maintained generally good relations since the election of Spanish socialist Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero as prime minister in 2004.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP and AP.