Pubdate: Mon, 15 Jul 2002
Source: BBC News (UK Web)
Copyright: 2002 BBC
Author: Roger Harrabin, BBC environment correspondent


It Has Been A Big Weekend In Morocco.

King Mohammed VI got married. The horns have been sounding, the music 
blaring all night and the nation's brave navy has gathered on the island of 
Perejil - whose name translates from Spanish as Parsley.

Known by Moroccans as Leila, the island is claimed by both Morocco and 
Spain, but is inhabited only by 50 ravenous goats with not a lonely 
goatherd in sight.

 From the windy cliff opposite Parsley, it is clear that the herb that 
bestowed its name was long ago forcibly removed by the current tenants.

They have munched the island almost to a bare rock. It is also clear why 
the Moroccans think this particular rock is theirs.

"The island is inside Moroccan waters," says one.

Security risk

But this is geography versus history. The Spanish ruled the Parsley goats 
when they held Morocco in a so-called protectorate until the 1950s.

Since then, there has been an agreement that no-one would occupy it.

But the armed guard who keeps an eye on the island from the Moroccan coast 
explains that with drug smuggling, illegal immigration and al-Qaeda, 
Parsley is becoming a security risk.

"Parsley's being abused by smugglers," he says. "There's a cave on the 
island. It's being used by Spaniards who are coming across to get Morocco's 
hashish and take it home.

"What with the threat of al-Qaeda too, the Moroccans have simply had to put 
troops on the island."

Fish fight

In Parsley's neighbouring village, fisherman like Alami Mohammed have an 
idea why they think the Spanish do not want to let the island go.

He says they are still hankering after Morocco's fish.

"The Government of Spain, they haven't fish. But we have here in our water 
many fish and good fish. The Spanish people they want to keep Moroccan fish."

But drive for 20 minutes to Spanish Ceuta and you have a very different view.

Opinion in the El Refectorio fish restaurant - all barrel vault roof and 
bogus beams - is unanimous.

If you let the Moroccans get away with grabbing Parsley, we all know what 
they will want next.
- ---
MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom