Britain and Spain's foreign ministers will try to agree a date next week for the resumption of talks on the future of Gibraltar, officials said yesterday. London and Madrid, which have been discussing sharing sovereignty, missed a mid-year target deadline to reach agreement on the future of the British colony of 30'000 people on Spain's southern coast. A Foreign Office spokeswoman said Jack Straw and Spanish counterpart Ana Palacio would meet in London on September 27. She said there would be no formal talks on the status of Gibraltar at the meeting, but the two ministers would discuss the next stage of negotiations. Most people in Gibraltar want to remain British citizens. Gibraltar's government announced earlier this month it would call a referendum in November on whether London should share sovereignty with Madrid. It said it would call its own referendum to pre-empt plans by Britain to put any agreement with Spain to a vote. Britain has said it will not alter Gibraltar's status against the wishes of its inhabitants, but it has also warned it will not recognise the November 7 referendum because it was not called by London. Spain ceded Gibraltar to Britain under the 1713 Treaty of Utrecht but has been attempting to recover it ever since, launching a series of failed military attacks in the 18th century. Around a third of the colony's population packed its streets last week in a protest against talks between London and Madrid.

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