The Austrian government has decided to send 235 Blue berets to W.S. for 8 months.
Mrs Nancy Soderberg, assistant ambassador of the USA at the U.N. went to Morocco and occupied Western Sahara. The delegation met Driss Basri for a working session and stayed in El Ayoun on February 13 and 14 where it met shiouks and observers.
Answering to a letter from the Polisario representative in U.K. published in The Guardian, Minister Derek Fatchett, from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office said: "We support UN efforts to bring about a free and fair referendum which will enable the people of the territory to decide between independence and integration within Morocco. I can assure Morocco, and the Polisario, that we want a free, transparent and just referendum, and will do all we can to help bring that about."
Dunbar in Tindouf
Mr Charles Dunbar has reached Tindouf where he hold talks with Saharawi responsibles and also President Abdelaziz. He received a delegation of the AFAPREDESA, association of families of prisoners and disappeared Saharawis. The Saharawi NGO asked the special representative to protect the human rights in the occupied territories, to warrant free access to the territory for all human right NGOs and independant observers. It asked him also to make an enquiry about the unexplained death in Rabat on January 10 of the Saharawi notable Sid Ahmed Aaraoua. ( spanish communique )
In front of the media Mr Dunbar qualified the talks with both parties as positive.
The Saharawi president, in a press conference after the visit, declared to be faithfull regarding a fair solution of the conflict. He said the work of the MINURSO since resuming on 03.12.97 was serious and qualified the identification as very positive and encouraging despite the Moroccan hindrance.
Interview of Driss Basri
The Moroccan Minister of Interior declared in the Spanish daily newspaper ABC that "Morocco will not go to the referendum if the right of blood is systematically violated" He estimed that the Polisario does only accept as voters the applicants included in the Spanish census of 1994 and that it refuses the 3 other criteria. Morocco " will not wait untill next June. Morocco requires the daily transparency, we want to know day by day the lists of accepted and rejected applicants". Basri did not hesitate to accuse the U.N. mission: "We have founded suspicion that members of the MINURSO show a large complicity and sympathy for the Polisario point of view."
Dunbar in El Ayoun
The UN special representative declared to be in permanent contact with S.G. Kofi Annan and James Baker. According his declaration Annan follows the dossier closely.
Dunbar in Algiers
He met President Lamine Zeroual and hold a working session with Foreign Minister Ahmed Attaf.
Since 3 of December 1997, 42,674 applicants were convoked, 31,082 identified. Since the beginning of the process in August 1994, 91,194 persons have been identified.
Now 8 identification offices are open: El Ayoun 1 and 2, Dakhla or Boujdour in alternance (presently the identification is suspended), Goulimine, Tan-Tan, the refugee camps of Smara and Dakhla, Zoueratt since February 9.
The demining operations should begin at the end of March- begin of April.
On Moroccan side this week once more dissatisfaction was publicly expressed.
Some applicants from the Ait Oussa tribe organised on February 6 manifestations in front of the identification centers of El Ayoun, Dakhla, Tan-Tan and Goulimine, in order to ask for "their right to be identified". The representatives of this tribe, who protested against their involvment in the contested H61 tribes, which have a particular procedure according to the Houston agreements, have been received by the president of the identification commission.
On February 17 to 18, voter identification in one center in El Ayun halted intermittently, said a UN spokeswoman. "It is just a matter of procedure and we hope the process will resume on 19 February".
In a communique some pro-Moroccan shiouks told the MINURSO responsible to be carefull about bad mistakes in the process, adding that their patience has limits.
Members of the Azouafit tribe, in a letter to the president of the identification commission, told him they refuse to be identified with the H61 tribes because this procedure inflicts loss on their tribe.
In the Moroccan newspapers:
Al Bayane, 14.02.98: "Patience has limits: collusion between some members of the MINURSO and the Polisario Front has become obvious."
Liberation 20.02.98: "The trip of Charles Dunbar did not contribute to prevent the crisis who is taking shape in the identification process. Mr Dunbar and his bosses in New York as well as in Washington must understand that the Moroccans are not ready to accept everything."
Maroc-Hebdo, 20.02.98, headlines: "The referendum will not take place."- " MINURSO dishonours its mission."
23.02.-08.03.98, Almansa (Albacete), Spain: III Semana de solidaridad con el pueblo saharaui.
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