The Sahrawi President participated in the DS party congress (democratic left), held in Turin from January 13 to 16. Mohamed Abdelaziz spoke before the international political forum about the struggle of the Sahrawi people. He called on Europe to give its "unequivocal" support to the implementation of the Settlement Plan. "This means challenging any initiative designed to undermine the efforts of the international community or to impugn the United Nations' credibility," he stated. (SPS)
The Sahrawi delegation then went to Rome, where it met on January 19 with the President of the Regional Council, the secretary generals of several political parties, the chairpersons of the Parliament's various foreign affairs commissions and the Senate. The Sahrawi President urged Europe "to clearly support (.) the referendum, which constitutes a suitable framework for a peaceful and democratic solution" to the conflict. (Sahrawi Department of Information)
"Your historic decision deprived those who, in one way or another, wanted to scuttle fruitful and mutually beneficial dialogue between Africa and Europe, of their last argument," responded Abdelaziz Bouteflika, current President of the OAU, to the Sahrawi President, following the SADR's unilateral decision to not participate in the summit. (SPS)
The Algerian President issued an "additional aide memoire" to the heads of State participating in the OAU-EU Summit, to announce the "SADR's non-participation." By satisfying one of the demands from the European side, wrote the OAU President, the SADR should expect in return "a reaffirmation of the Sahrawi people's right to self-determination and the rapid and honest implementation of the Houston Agreements." (APS)
MINURSO published the second part of the provisional list of voters. Of the 51,220 applicants from the three "contested" tribes, 2,130 individuals were recognized as having the right to vote. Added to the first list of 84,251 voters, the total number of voters is 86,381 out of close to 200,000 auditioned applicants .
MINURSO opened 14 centres to process appeals.
Referendum: no to more delays
Commenting on the overall results of the identification during a press conference in Algiers, the Sahrawi Minister of Foreign Affairs warned against any delay in the referendum, adding that the next meeting of the Security Council in February will be definitive: either it will decide to hold the referendum in the near future and will reject attempts by Morocco to block the process, or it will succumb to Rabat's pressure, at which point Sahrawi people will have no option left but to resume armed struggle.
Identification: shock and disappointment
In a press release, the Moroccan government expressed its "shock and disappointment." It questioned the identification procedures, which it claims did not respect "neutrality, objectivity and equity." In particular, it charged that oral testimony was not properly processed and that the Polisario Front "disrupted the work of the commission and negatively influenced its deliberations." Morocco considers it legitimate to submit appeals and expressed its hope that the United Nations would treat them "impartially and equitably (.) in order to restore credibility to the process."
A high-level delegation, made up of the Minister of the Interior, the Minister of Islamic Affairs, the Minister of the Economy and Finance, the Minister Responsible for Maghreb, Arab and Islamic Affairs, the Secretary of State for the Interior and other national and regional officials, went to El Ayoun for a meeting in reaction of the publication of the second provisional voters' list.
For the Moroccan officials, the results of the identification operations "do not conform to reality because they exclude citizens whose parents made major sacrifices to defend their homeland." The Minister of the Interior stated that "Morocco cannot accept a referendum that does not include the participation of all of the citizens from the southern provinces," stressing that it is Morocco's right to demand that the United Nations take into consideration tribal membership, a principle which, according to Mr. Midaoui, is enshrined in international law. "If these criteria are not respected, we will not accept the organization of this consultation."
For another minister, the identification commission's decision "constitutes an aberration and indicates flagrant collusion between the UN commission and the enemies of Morocco's territorial integrity." Other speakers called for a review of how the identification criteria were implemented. (Le Matin du Sahara, Rabat)
In a letter received by Western Sahara Campaign UK from the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office dated January 19, 2000, the British Government admitted licensing for export 3000 rubber multi-baton round cartridges to the Moroccan Royal Gendarmerie in 1998. The Western Sahara Campaign believes these licenses clearly contravene the EU Code of Conduct on Arms Exports which states that "Member states will not issue an export licence if there is a clear risk that the intended recipient would use the proposal export aggressively against another country or to assert a territorial claim."
The Sahrawi Prime Minister received Youssef Mahmoud, Director of the Africa Division of the UN's Political Affairs Department. During the meeting, Bouchraya Beyoun called for the referendum schedule to be respected, stating it was "the only logical democratic option." Mr. Beyoun also said that the results of the identification operations "are logical and confirm the credibility of the Sahrawi's position." (SPS)
In a press release, the Sahrawi human rights association "vigorously" condemned the statements made by the Moroccan Minister of the Interior, who is seeking to "discredit the hard work carried out by MINURSO's Identification Commission to implement the UN's resolutions and the Houston Agreements, agreed to by both parties in the conflict."
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