Spain and Britain are close to solving a dispute concerning Gibraltar that would unblock long-stalled EU legislation on takeover bids, Spanish Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar said yesterday. “It's going in a very good direction. It's practically done,” Aznar told a news conference at the end of an EU summit, adding that finishing touches remained to be put to the agreement. “What matters to me most is that the agreement between Spain and Great Britain should be a reality in the shortest possible time,” Aznar said. The British colony of Gibraltar, commonly known as “The Rock”, in the south of the Iberian peninsula has always been a point of contention between the two EU partners because of Madrid's nearly 300-year-old claim to sovereignty. The stumbling block in the stalled EU legislation has been Spain's fear that the laws might have the effect of weakening its claim to sovereignty over Gibraltar. Authorities in the British colony might appoint separate bodies, for example to handle takeover disputes. Aznar said he had talked to British Prime Minister Tony Blair about the issue in Lisbon but gave no details. Britain and Spain had earlier poured cold water on reports that they would resolve the dispute at the Lisbon summit.

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