Britain said yesterday it had agreed a 14-month deadline with Spain to make progress in their long-running dispute over the sovereignty of Gibraltar. But a Foreign Office spokeswoman denied a newspaper report they were working on a secret deal to end the row over the outcrop, or “The Rock” as it is commonly known. There were “no particular proposals” from either side on the table, she said. The dispute over Gibraltar, a tiny British colony on the southern tip of Spain, has soured relations between the two countries for almost 300 years and obstructed European Union agreement on a single airspace. The spokeswoman said Britain and Spain saw a “window of opportunity” to build on strong relations between Prime Ministers Tony Blair and Jose Maria Aznar and had agreed a target date of December next year to clear up the issue. “We do acknowledge the deadline, to give momentum to the process,” the spokeswoman said. “It doesn't mean the whole thing stands or falls by the end of 2002 but it would be a time to review progress and take stock of where we've got to.”

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