The government of the Sahrawi Republic restated its commitment to respect the UN peace plan and the Houston Agreements, calling for their prompt implementation. In a press release, the government warned against the "danger of Morocco's current position which aims (.) to reduce the peace plan to a simple means of consolidating its occupation of the Western Sahara." It added, "The Sahrawi people are still being denied their right to self-determination. Unfortunately this situation (.) does not leave much hope for the initiative and effort being taken by the international community."
The Presidency of the OAU responded to Portuguese Prime Minister Gutteres' expressed disappointment that Portugal would not be able to organize the EU-OAU summit due to the differences between Algeria and Morocco on the issue of the Western Sahara.
The Presidency stated that the problem wasn't the Moroccan-Algerian disagreement, but rather Europe's refusal to discuss political, economic and social issues.
The EU, and especially France and Portugal, would require Morocco's participation, despite the fact that Morocco voluntarily withdrew its membership from the OAU when the SADR was admitted into the organization.
The Portuguese Minister of Foreign Affairs denied the statements attributed to Mr. Guterres and expressed his hope that the summit would take place as scheduled. The Portuguese Secretary of State for European Affairs stated, however, that the OAU does not "represent all African countries and includes one country that is not recognized by the UN, namely the SADR." For El Watan, it is clear that "the Europeans do not want a Sahrawi presence, which is not surprising for an organization (the EU) whose position on the Sahrawi issue is ambiguous, even partial, for instance with regard to the EU-Morocco fishing accord, which includes Sahrawi territorial waters."
Arrests in Morocco
Contrary to what was reported by AFP, the trial of the three Sahrawis, Brahim Laghzal, Larbi Benmassoud and Khaya Cheikh, has not begun. The official charges laid against the three of them are still not known. The three men disappeared on December 6 and only appeared before the prosecuting attorney on December 14 in Agadir. They are currently being held in the Inezgane civil prison (in a suburb of Agadir). Family members of the detainees told AFP, "We denounce these illegal arrests which completely violate the rules of a constitutional state, and we demand their release."
Fadel Ismaïl presented Ethiopian President Dr. Negasso Gidada with his credentials as ambassador extraordinary and plenipotentiary of the SADR to the Federal Republic of Ethiopia (press release from the SADR embassy in Ethiopia).
The referendum process in the Western Sahara, fishing and emigration will be discussed during the next visit to Morocco of the Spanish Minister of External Affairs, Abel Matutes, on January 18 and 19.
The Identification Commission completed its identification of applicants from three tribal groupings, convoking more than 64,000 people and identifying more than 51,000 of them. Identification work was completed on schedule last Thursday, December 30, and a provisional list of voters for the Western Sahara referendum will be issued on January 15. On January 17, appeals from people who were not deemed eligible to vote can begin. Since the voter identification progress began, MINURSO has convoked over 240,000 people.
Following three days of debate, the parliament adopted the government's program for the year 2000.
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