The Foreign Affairs Committee of the Italian Parliament adopted a resolution asking the government to supply 'all possible support to the realisation of the referendum' and to promote a 'formal' initiative with the European Union, in order to invite Morocco to allow the referendum to take place and to respect its result, to further dialogue between the Moroccans and the Saharawis about the management of the post-referendum period, to collaborate with the Saharawi representatives in order to study the setting-up of the future administration of Western Sahara and to negotiate with them on fishing rights and the utilisation of the resources of the country.
During a closed-door session, devoted to the demonstrations at the beginning of March in the towns of Smara and El Ayoun, the Assistant Secretary General, Hedi Annabi qualified the events as 'less serious incidents than reported in various media'. He, however, admitted that his information on Smara came from the Moroccan police, as no member of MINURSO was there. Concerning El Ayoun, he confirmed that there had been a few injured among the demonstrators and the forces of order and that a reinforcement in the presence of police forces had been noticed, even though the cease-fire had not been proclaimed. The US Ambassador to the UN, Mrs Nancy Soderberg, expressed the concern of her country and asked that the situation, which she described as 'sensitive' should be followed up carefully. For Ahmed Boukhari the report presented 'distorted' the events. The representative of the Polisario Front denounced the 'pact of silence' existing between MINURSO and the Moroccan authorities to suppress the truth on what was happening in the occupied territories.
In a memorandum sent on 13 March to the Security Council and to the UN General Assembly, the Polisario Front called for the rapid holding of the referendum, asking the international community to make a 'final effort'. (Spanish press).
Kofi Annan in London and Paris
The UN Secretary-General paid official visits to London and Paris. He spoke with the British Minister for Foreign Affairs, Robin Cook, about how to accelerate the solution of the conflict in Western Sahara. He announced that his personal envoy, James Baker, would meet 'in mid-May' with representatives of Morocco and the Polisario Front.
In Paris, Kofi Annan asserted that the idea of a referendum in Western Sahara had not been abandoned but that it could not be organised as foreseen. He raised this problem with Jacques Chirac and Hubert Védrine, Head of French diplomacy, a few days before the visit to France of the Moroccan sovreign. The UN Secretary-General would look, according to diplomatic circles quoted by SPS, for indispensable support for getting the settlement plan out of the present impasse.
Morocco - Occupied territories
A ministerial delegation, composed of, among others, the Minister of the Interior, the Minister of Finance and the Economy and the Minister of Social Development, went to El Ayoun, accompanied by General Bennani, commander of the 'Southern Zone'. In the course of a meeting with representatives of the population, the delegation examined social, economic and commercial problems in the occupied territories. The delegation announced measures to create jobs and 'the development of the resources of the region by its own inhabitants'. This is the third time since taking office that the new Minister of the Interior has traveled to the Sahara with the aim of establishing dialogue with the population and reducing tension.
In its resolution adopted overwhelmingly, the Parliament reiterated its support for the UN peace plan and exhorted Morocco and the Polisario Front to open a political dialogue on the future of the region. It invited the EU Council to undertake common action with the UN and the interested parties, aiming for the rapid and proper implementation of the peace plan. It asked Morocco to guarantee complete freedom of expression, of association and demonstration to the inhabitants of Western Sahara, decided to send a mission there and requested the increase in humanitarian aid to the Saharawi refugees.
Mohamed Sidati, Saharawi Minister for Europe, welcomed the adoption of this important resolution, which signifies 'unambiguous support for the right to self-determination of the Saharawi people', for the peace plan and the referendum, 'the only real road to peace'.
11.03.00, Valencia: In a speech given at the invitation of the association Salam, Solidarity with the Saharawi People, Mohamed Sidati announced in Valencia that 'the Saharawis have taken the decision to obtain freedom as a people...Nobody has the right to look for an alternative to the referendum, even if we know that France and Spain are researching other solutions'.
11.03.00, Asturias: The autonomous government of Asturias condemned the repression in Western Sahara and asked the United Nations to assume their responsibilities in the implementation of the Houston Agreements to act, without delay and firmly to preserve peace and stability in the region.
11.03.00, Minorca: All the mayors of the island of Minorca (Balearic Islands) as well as the governor of the island also condemned the brutal repression in the occupied territories.
13.03.00, Extremadura: The Platform of municipalities of the autonomous region of Extremadura, comprising over 20 mayors, appealed to the UN to hasten the process of decolonisation in Western Sahara.(SPS)
09.03.00: The Moroccan weekly, Le Reporter, announced that the three young Saharawis imprisoned since December 1999 in Agadir accused of espionage for the Polisario, whose liberation had been demanded during the demonstrations in Agadir, Smara and El Ayoun, 'would be pardoned'.
11.03.00: A Moroccan daily paper acknowledged that a Security agent and a police officer had been wounded during the dispersion of the high school pupils who were demonstrating in Smara (..). The governor of the province, who met a group of demonstrators, announced that the 10 people arrested would be released without being prosecuted. (Al-Ahdath al-Maghribia)
12.03.00: The DGSN (General Office of National Security ie Moroccan police) sent to the office of AFP in Rabat a 'clarification' in order to 'correct erroneous information published by AFP on the demonstrations in Agadir and Smara'. According to the DGSN, these demonstrations were illegal and had been dispersed within the law, which caused 'some minor damage'. This is the first time in Morocco that the police has justified its intervention publicly.
12.03.00: The Moroccan parties of the left decided to organise, without giving a date, a national meeting in El Ayoun 'devoted to the examination of the recent developments in the Southern Provinces and to make contacts for consultation with the population of these provinces'.
13.03.00: National Saharawi Radio, picked up by the BBC, announced that the trial of the five Saharawis arrested during the disturbances in El Ayoun, set for 15 March, had been postponed. Three other Saharawis, arrested on 3 March, had been released after signing blank statements.(SPS).
15.03.00: According to National Saharawi Radio, picked up by the BBC, the 186 Moroccan prisoners of war recently freed by the Polisario Front are still being held in the military base of Ben Sergaou near Agadir. Two of them are alleged to have been killed by members of the Moroccan Secret Service.
L'Associazione nazionale di solidarietà con il popolo sahrawi, Italy, the Western Sahara Campaign, UK, along with the French "Section de l'observatoire international du référendum au Sahara Occidental" (SFO), together with the Human Rights Ligue and France Libertés, protested, in press releases, against the repression in Western Sahara and in favour of the rapid holding of the referendum.
The Saharawi Consultative Council, composed of sheiks engaged during the identification, 'strongly condemned' the repression in the occupied territories. (SPS, 12.03.00)
The repression in Western Sahara is proof of the intention of Morocco to abort the peace plan, announced Khatri Addouh, member of the National Secretariat of the Polisario Front, speaking during a meeting in the wilaya of El Ayoun. (SPS,12.03.00)
The executive of the Saharawi National Secretariat expressed itself concerned by the situation of human rights in Western Sahara. It announced that the grassroots popular congresses would take place on 2 April. These must renew the local governing bodies and implement the programme defined by the last congress of the Polisario Front. The executive has also organised an International Festival of Culture, which will take place in the second half of April. (SPS, 14.03.00)
The Saharawi National Council (parliament) appealed to all parliamentary bodies and human rights organisations 'to act without delay to alleviate the suffering of our population under repression'. (SPS, 15.03.00)
- Official visit of King Mohamed VI to France from 19 to 23.03.00.
- 56th session of the UN Commission on Human Rights, Geneva 20 March to 28 April 2000.
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