Antonio Guterres, Prime Minister of Portugal, expressed regret that it was not currently possible to organize the Euro-African Summit, proposed four years ago by Lisbon. The Summit, which was supposed to be held in Cairo in April 2000, could not be organized due to Morocco's refusal to agree to the participation of the SADR.
Referendum - UN
Meeting in Brussels, the Task Force for the coordination of Sahrawi support committees, restated the need to proceed without further delay with the self-determination referendum in the Western Sahara. It expressed its surprise at the UN Secretary-General's statement that the referendum must be postponed as a result of the failure of the two parties to agree. The Task Force stated that if he wants to prevent another UN failure, the Secretary-General must abandon his role as passive observer, and carry out his mandate, namely the implementation of the peace plan. The Task Force also emphasized Europe's, and in particular the former colonial power Spain's responsibility to take action in the face of Moroccan repression in the occupied territories of the Western Sahara, as well as the planned construction of a nuclear power plant in Tan-Tan, Morocco, and to take into account Sahrawi interests during the negotiation of fishing accords with Morocco.
In an urgent message to Kofi Annan, the Task Force stated that "the Polisario Front agreed to a democratic vote by the Sahrawi people on the future of the Sahrawi nation. Today, the United Nations is responsible for obliging Morocco to respect the rules that the two parties agreed to." The message also urged that the Western Sahara must not become another East Timor and that the Secretary-General and the institutions he represents should be the guarantors of the Sahrawis' fundamental rights, that the Sahrawi should not have to continuously pay with their lives for the procrastination, slowness and failures on the part of the international community.
The Sahrawi army conducted manoeuvres in the region of Mijik, 3rd military region (unoccupied zones), for over four hours. Hundreds of combatants, dozens of armed missiles, artillery, anti-aircraft artillery and logistics participated in the exercises. While these manoeuvres were scheduled, they also represent preparation for a resumption of armed struggle, according to a statement by Hamma Salama, commander of the 3rd military region (SPS).
After spending six days blindfolded in military barracks, and subjected to torture, the three Sahrawis who were arrested on December 6 were transferred to the prison in Inezgane, close to Agadir. Suspected of passing intelligence to Polisario, according to "documentation seized in their homes," they may stand trial for violating State security According to the Moroccan press, they transmitted "information" to the Polisario Front during their "frequent travels" abroad, particularly to France and the Canary Islands. They are to appear in court "shortly" in Agadir.
In addition, a Sahrawi non-commissioned officer in the Moroccan army, Hamdi ould el Belkhir, from the 42nd battalion, in Amgala, was removed on 21.12.99 to an undisclosed destination by army helicopter.
A number of Sahrawi solidarity retreats were held in various Andalucian municipalities, reports the Asociacion de Amistad con el Pueblo Saharaui de Sevilla. Attendance was high, including some 300 participants in Casariche and Marinaleda (Sevilla province). In a number of city halls in the provinces of Almeria, Cadiz, Huelva and Malaga, declarations of support for the Sahrawi people were read, approved or are in the process of being approved by municipal authorities.
Sahrawi government meeting
The Sahrawi government met to assess its activity over the last year and to develop an action plan for the year 2000. The government's major concerns are the improvement of sanitary infrastructure and more efficient management. The program will be submitted shortly to parliament. (SPS)
On December 22 at midnight and December 23 at 1:00 a.m., Moroccan reconnaissance aircraft flew over Sahrawi army positions in the region of M'Heriz (unoccupied zones). These violations, according to a press release issued by the Sahrawi Ministry of Information, add to other violations such as the constructions aimed at strengthening Moroccan positions along the berm. The Polisario Front is demanding that MINURSO better control Moroccan air movements "in order to prevent a military escalation."
Mr. Gabriel, US Ambassador to Rabat, stated that his country supports the UN's plan in order to help the referendum process move forward. In an interview published by the newspaper Al Ittihad Al Ichtiraki, the American diplomat said that President Clinton and Madeleine Albright communicated to the King on numerous occasions their support for any initiative taken by the King that will contribute to a better future for his people. Mr. Gabriel commented that the major changes and critical decisions made by Mohammed VI since he took the throne, to foster investment have encouraged US investors to take greater interest in Morocco, which, in their view, will play a leadership role.
A charter flight for Tindouf will leave from Alicante on January 5 and return January 10. Information: tel./fax: 963 943 389, portable 610 697 652
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