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Gibraltar Votes on Sharing Sovereignty with Spain

The British colony of Gibraltar is voting on a referendum on whether Spain should get a share of its sovereignty. The Gibraltar government expects a massive vote against letting Spain get a foothold in the colony.

About 20,000 Gibraltarians are eligible to vote in the referendum on the historic Rock's future.

The chief minister, Peter Caruana, forecasts a massive rejection of the proposal to share sovereignty over the colony between Britain and Spain.

The Spanish media have compared the referendum to the recent vote in Iraq, in which 100 percent of the votes were cast for President Saddam Hussein. That suggestion angers Mr. Caruana.

"They are trying to discredit our attempt to signal our wish to stay British, even if we exercise that with our eyes open and freely," he said.

Britain and Spain have been talking about ways of resolving Spain's long claim to Gibraltar. British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw told parliament in July that Britain would be prepared to share sovereignty of Gibraltar with Spain.

However a diplomatic deal has been hung up over Britain's insistence on exclusive use of Gibraltar's naval base, and Spain's refusal to renounce its claim to all of the colony's territory.

Mr. Caruana organized Thursdays referendum in hopes it will preempt any agreement. Britain says the referendum is meaningless, and Spain calls it illegal.

The last time Gibraltar held a referendum, in 1967, more than 12,000 voters chose to remain with Britain, while 44 voted to end British sovereignty.

Britain captured Gibraltar in 1704, and Spain permanently ceded the Rock to Britain under the Treaty of Utrecht in 1713.