BBC and The Guardian: reports from Brussels conference
- Western Sahara: Polisario leader visits Belgium, rejects `third way` solution
From BBC INTERNATIONAL REPORTS (ME1), November 24th, 2000
Excerpt from report by Algerian radio on 24th November
The proceedings of the 26th seminar for coordination between
European committees for the support of the Saharan people will
start in Brussels this evening
The three-day seminar will be attended by Saharan President
Mohamed Abdelaziz and a large number of lawyers,
parliamentarians and ambassadors from various parts of the
world. Algeria will be represented by a delegation led by the
member of the Council of the Nation, Saida Benhbelis.
The seminar was preceded this morning by a news conference held
by Saharan President Mohamed Abdelaziz. Menouar Louis attended
the conference and sent the following report:
[Louis - recording] The Saharan president has announced his
rejection of the so-called third way regarding the settlement of
the Saharan issue. The president, who was talking to journalists
today at the International Press Centre in Brussels, blamed the
Moroccan government for the delay in the settlement process in
Western Sahara and the non-implementation of the UN plan for
self-determination of Saharan people in view of Morocco's
disregard for the agreements between the two sides.
The Saharan president urgently called on the international
community to contribute to the rescue of the UN plan lest
Morocco's opposition to it would put the region in danger.
Moreover, President Abdelaziz reiterated his commitment to the
UN plan to settle the conflict peacefully and conclusively, and
expressed the Polisario Front's readiness to accept the
referendum, irrespective of its outcome, provided that it is
held democratically and transparently...
Source: Algerian radio, Algiers, in Arabic 1130 gmt 24 Nov 00
BBC Monitoring. Copyright BBC
BBC INTERNATIONAL REPORTS (ME1), 24th November 2000
Saharan leader tries to recruit EU to freedom cause: Its allies dwindling, his
movement wants Brussels to lean on Moroccan occupiers
From THE GUARDIAN, November 25th, 2000
By IAN BLACK IN BRUSSELS
It has been a long march for Mohammed Abdel-Aziz, president of the
Saharan Arab Democratic Republic. But he still believes - in the
face of repeated reverses - that his people will win independence.
Marking the 25th anniversary of the occupation of his desert
homeland by Morocco, the leader of this phantom state refuses to
acknowledge that the years of struggle have been in vain even as
world support slips away and the status quo solidifies.
Mr Abdel-Aziz, now 51, was a founder of the Polisario Front, formed
in 1973 to oppose the claim of King Hassan of Morocco to the then
Spanish colony. Two years later, General Franco pulled out, the king
got his chance, and instead of independence, the Sahrawis got
He has been president of the notional Saharan republic since 1982,
but still has to live in exile in neighbouring Algeria, long at odds
with Morocco and thus Mr Abdel-Aziz's staunchest backer.
Now seeking to regain lost ground after what really does seem to be
the final collapse of a UN plan for a referendum on the future
status of the disputed Saharan region, Mr Abdel-Aziz blames Morocco
for the impasse. He argues that the late King Hassan's successor,
King Mohammed, though a liberaliser in some ways, is his father's
son on the Sahara.
'We had hopes of cooperation with the new king, but he is not
dealing with the issues in a new way,' he said yesterday.
Mr Abdel-Aziz, a powerfully built man, speaks passionately - in
careful classical Arabic with a distinctive Sahrawi Hassaniya accent
- of the right to self-determination of a small people it sometimes
seems has been simply forgotten by history.
'No, nothing has changed,' he says defiantly. 'Twenty-five years of
sacrifices and hardship have made us more determined than ever to
win our legitimate rights.' But much has changed. Back in the
mid-70s and early 80s, Polisario fighters made the Moroccans pay a
heavy price for taking over the phosphate-rich territory along the
Using language inspired by the Palestinians, the Sahrawis attracted
wide support as a Third World liberation movement betrayed by a
world that preferred to look the other way.
Morocco, like Indonesia, mattered more to the US and its allies than
the fate of a few hundred thousand nomads who happened to believe
they were a distinct people with their own identity.
In their refugee camps in Tindouf in remote south-western Algeria,
the Polisario fighters impressed visitors with their high morale and
motivation as guerrillas in all-terrain vehicles scoured the gravel
plains to mount hit-and-run raids on Moroccan forces.
Yet fighting stopped under a ceasefire nine years ago, and last
month the UN as much as admitted that referendum plans were stalled
after years of Morrocan procrastination over how to register voters.
Diplomatic recognition of the would-be republic has dwindled, too,
though its leader said that India, a big player in the non-aligned
world, had only 'frozen' links. And Nigeria remained loyal.
The phantom state is still a member of the Organisation of African
Unity. But Algeria - anxious to mend its fences with Morocco -
leaned heavily on its leaders not to insist on attending the
EU-Africa summit in Cairo earlier this year. They stayed away.
Mr Abdel-Aziz insists he will not accept autonomy under Moroccan
rule - an idea quietly encouraged by the US and France. He has urged
the EU to make its relations with Morocco - the largest single
recipient of aid from the union - conditional on movement on a
referendum. But the fact is that none of the 15 want to upset the
new king, praised for reforms since assuming power last summer.
'European countries decided from the start not to use their
influence to bring about a settlement and instead they are
bolstering a colonial enterprise,' said Mr Abdel-Aziz. 'But they
should convince the Moroccans to support the referendum.'
Copyright 2000 The Guardian.
Source: World Reporter (Trade Mark) - FT McCarthy.
THE GUARDIAN, 25th November 2000___________________________________________
Norwegian Support Committee for Western Sahara
Tel: +47 92 80 86 07 mob.
23 03 05 71 priv.
Fax: 92 97 86 07