Statement of Ambassador A. Peter Burleigh, Chargé d'affaires of the United States Mission to the United Nations, following Security Council Renewal of the Mandate of the MINURSO: "The United States would like to congratulate the Secretary-General's Special Representative, Ambassador Charles Dunbar, and his staff, for their tireless efforts in completing the registration of all non-contested applicants. We continue to strongly support the further engagement on the part of the Secretary-General's Personal Envoy, Mr. James Baker, in the settlement plan process. We urge the parties to work constructively with him to bring this long-standing dispute to a comprehensive and mutually-agreeable conclusion."
Lee H. Hamilton of Indiana, democratic member in the House of Representatives, wrote on August 7 to President Clinton. He urges the US President to support actively the full implementation of the United Nations Settlement Plan for Western Sahara. He establishs that the parties to the plan - the Government of Morocco and the Polisario Front - are not doing enough to meet their commitments under this agreement. He mentions that the status-of-forces agreement has not been signed, the UNHCR does not yet have an agreement with the Government of Morocco to formalize its presence in the Western Sahara, and the Government of Morocco has imposed restrictions on MINURSO aircrafts.
In his answer dated August 31, President Clinton underlines the importance of full implementation of the United Nations settlement plan. He notes that United States officials at the United Nations and in the region constantly monitor developments affecting the MINURSO. The U.S. embassy in Rabat closely follows the settlement process in the Western Sahara through visits to Western Sahara proper and to refugee camps in Tindouf. "We have also placed a U.S. official, on a short-term basis, in Western Sahara to observe and report on developments. The United States will continue to take every opportunity to urge the Government of Morocco and the Polisario to work with the United Nations in resolving this longstanding dispute."
Hearing Subcommittee on Africa, US House of Representatives
The hearing examines the UN-sponsored referendum process to determine the future of the Western Sahara. Participants: Ronald E. Neumann, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State, Albert Zapanta, former Commander of the US staff of the MINURSO, congressmen McKinney, Pitts and Menendez, professor John Damis, Chair of the Division of Political Science, Portland State University, and the Polisario Front representative in Washington Mulud Said.
In his opening statement the chairman, Republican Edward Royce, underlines the interest of the Subcommittee members in this referendum and remembers the Resolution 245, calling for a fair and free referendum and self-determination for the people of Western Sahara. "We are now in the eighth year of a six months process. At some point", he added," our patience will end."
On his side Robert Menendez said he is "deeply concerned by the efforts of the Moroccan Government to disrupt and taint the voter identification process and stall the refendum."
In a written declaration the congresswoman Cynthia McKinney urges the US administration to play an active role in ensuring that the people of the Western Sahara be given the opportunity to decide their future in a free, fair, and transparent referendum. In his speech congressman Joseph R. Pitts insists on human rights violations by Morocco which "continues to obstruct the process of carrying out the referendum."
In his intervention R. Neuman declares that "The issue of the Western Sahara has been particularly intractable, lasting over 20 years, during which time it has constituted an element of real and continuing potential instability, as well as a financial drain on the countries and peoples involved. The United States has sought to calm the situation and enhance stability by urging a peaceful settlement of the problem. We believe that a peaceful solution to the issue would enhance the stability of this region, as well as the stability of the Mediterranean Basin more generally, and would improve the prospects for enhanced political, economic, and commercial cooperation between all the actors in the region. On the other hand, the lack of a solution or the possible breakdown of efforts aimed at a peaceful solution could aggravate significantly all these existing problems and bring risks of new violence, all of which would jeopardize our own interests in the region and pose risks for Southern Europe." Mr Neuman notes the United States has steadfastly supported, and continues to support, the UN's mediation efforts, undertaken since the late 1980s, to resolve this dispute. "We believe a peaceful, sustainable solution must be found, and that this can happen only with the full cooperation of all the parties. These principles undergird our support for the mission of the United Nations Secretary-General's Special Representative, former Secretary of State James Baker. If Baker fails to reach a solution, we see no available alternative. That is why it makes sense to us to give Mr. Baker's efforts our full support. That is what we are doing. We have told the parties that the Baker mission is their last, best chance to solve this issue under the auspices of the UN."
The Saharawi representative in Washington reaffirms the commitment of the Polisario Front to the settlement plan and the Houston accords. "We realize that the referendum is not an end in itself but the bridge for a lasting solution." "We invite the government of Morocco to go with us hand in hand to the referendum and not in an atmosphere of animosity." He adds "We place high hopes in the US. It is our firm belief that with an active role of the US in ensuring that the two parties respect their commitments under the settlement plan and the Houston agreements this process could be implemented successfully."
The Polisario Front remarks that the declarations of Basri at El Ayun and those of Filali at New York are in contradiction with the Moroccan behaviour concerning the Peace Plan. It hopes the declarations will not be only propaganda for the medias and that Morocco will collaborate with MINURSO, J. Baker and Ch. Dunbar, in order to implement the referendum. On its side the Polisario Front reaffirms its strong committment to collaborate with the UN and the OAU in order to realize as quick as possible the self-determination referendum for the Sahrawi people (communique of the SADR Foreign Affairs Ministry).
According to well informed sources from the Maghreb the United States are continuing their contacts with the concerned countries, in order to incite them to commit themselves more actively to the settlement of the conflict (Al Hayat, London).
International solidarity conference with the Saharawi women.
More than hundred delegates from different countries participated to a solidarity meeting in the refugee camps organized by the Union of Saharawi Women in collaboration with European women organizations. The meeting ended with the adoption of a "mutual aid and solidarity agreement" between European women organizations and the Union of Saharawi Women. The Saharawi president, who briefly attended the meeting, commended the courage of Sahrawi women and reassured that it would have a role to play within a free and democratic Saharawi society. "The nation to which we aspire is based on a key element, women, who will remain the foundation of our society and will help in its development and stability," Abdelaziz said.
After the meeting of the Consultative Council of Human Rights, whose members are nominated by the king, the Moroccan state recognizes the disappearance of 112 persons between 1960 and 1980. Seventy of them are dead, among them 30 at Tazmamart. The families of the disappeared will be indemnifed and death certificates established. Most of the other 42 are identified, they are alive in Morocco or outside. 28 political prisoners, all islamists, will be released soon (Reuters).
According to AFAPREDESA about 11 ex-disappeared Saharawis ask for compensation for illegal detention and plan a sit-in at Rabat. Their appeal has been published in the Moroccan newspaper, Nachra, on Sept. 28.
U.S. Defence Secretary on Visit to Morocco
In a press conference William Cohen reaffirmed Washington's support for the UN settlement plan on the Western Sahara question.
UN General Assembly
The Foreign affairs minister of Algeria appealed to the United Nations and the Security Council to reaffirm their responsibility, and ensure that the people of Western Sahara could exercise its inalienable right to self-determination.
In an interview to Chark the Moroccan Minister of Foreign Affairs notes that a solution to the Western Sahara conflict cannot be found through an agreement with Algeria. That is on principle impossible. He says that Morocco cannot negociate with Algeria about the Moroccan Sahara (Ach-Chark al-Awsat).
In the frame of an administrative reorganization of the occupied territories of W.S. a new province has been created, Awserd. Its governor will be Bouchaïb Mekkaoui. New governors and walis have been appointed: Allal Saadaoui is the new wali and governor of the El Ayun province, Abdellah Ben Msick of the Oued Eddahab province. Abdelghani Sebbar is the new governor of the Smara province. Fayçal Meziani remains governor of the Boujdour province. Hassan Ouchen, former wali and governor of the El Ayun province leaves his position. All these representatives of the administration (makhzen) are appointed by the king, not by the government.
NEWS FROM THE REFUGEE CAMPS
Opening of the new school year
The new school year began in all wilayas with festivities.
During the last weeks the camps had numerous visits of media representatives. For example TV, radio and journalists from Netherlands made reports and interviewed Saharawi responsibles. The Spanish radio Cadena SER transmitted by satellite a four hours broadcasting, live from the Smara camp.
Numerous activities: conferences, videos, exhibitions, etc. at Pistoia, Bologna, L'Aquila, Rossano, Firenze, Roma, etc.
The Asociacion Cordobesa Amigos de los Ninos Saharauis received a 4000 liters tank truck from the municipality of Cordoba for the refugee camps.
The Italian Association of Solidarity with the Saharawi people organizes a charter flight from Rome, Italy, to Tindouf on Dec. 5 to 10 1998. For information: phone ++55 421 00 30 or 347 656 46 18.
Asociación Amigos del Sahara de Asturias
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