Spain has increased military pressure on Morocco to withdraw
its troops from a disputed Mediterranean island.
The Spanish military has employed warships and fighter-jets to pressure
Morocco to withdraw from the disputed island of Perejil, about 200 meters
from the Moroccan coast. Spain was also reported to have sent three
U.S.-made F-16 multi-role fighter jets to the island.
Witnesses said the F-16s flew over northern Morocco and broke the sound
barrier over the Moroccan town of Boan on Sunday. They said reconnaissance
planes were also seen over the North African kingdom.
Morocco has claimed the tiny island of Perejil, which it terms Leila.
The status of the island has not been clarified for more than 20 years.
Officials said about a dozen Moroccan soldiers landed on the island on
Thursday and raised two Moroccan flags. In response, Spain sent three naval
vessels, a submarine and military helicopters to circle Perejil.
"There is a language here of symbols that we all understand," Spanish
Foreign Minister Ana Palacio said.
There were no reports of a Moroccan military buildup. The North African
kingdom relies on aging U.S. and French aircraft and a tiny navy.
At the same time, Arab diplomatic sources reported intensified contacts
between Madrid and Rabat to resolve the military standoff. The sources said
they doubted that Spain would exploit its military superiority over its
The EU has supported Spain's claim to the island. But the Europeans said
they would not intervene.
The Arab League said it supports Morocco's claim to the disputed island.