Mohamed Abdelaziz spent several days on a working visit to the United States. After talks in Washington with members of the Congress and other important personalities, he went to Los Angeles at the invitation of American organisations. He took part on 7 April in a dinner-debate in Capitol Hill in Washington. In a speech, Mohamed Abdelaziz welcomed James Baker to the region and affirmed that the Polisario will cooperate fully with him to move the referendum process forward. He expressed the wish that this time France will contribute in a constructive manner to the advent of peace in Western Sahara.
Republican Congressman Joseph R Pitts, reiterated, on Wednesday 5 April in the House of Representatives, the right of the Saharawi people to self-determination. 'The people of Western Sahara, he said to a plenary session, merits the same respect and the same support as were accorded to the people of East Timor'. He defended the necessity of holding a free, fair and transparent referendum in Western Sahara. For his part, the President of the House of Representatives' Committee on International Relations, Benjamin A Gilman, sent a letter to the Saharawi President, in which he welcomed the recent progress accomplished in the implementation of the peace plan for Western Sahara. He asked the two parties to support the mission of James Baker and hoped for a positive settlement of the question of Western Sahara. (APS).
5th Conference of Spanish Parliamentary Intergroups 'Peace and Liberty in Western Sahara'
80 deputies who are members of the parliamentary intergroups in Spain supporting the Saharawi people meeting in Palma de Majorca, signed a declaration (full text Spanish) demanding the immediate holding of a referendum of self-determination, the sole peaceful solution to the conflict in Western Sahara. The parliamentarians also asked for the opening of the occupied Saharawi territories to the international press. They decided to send a delegation to the occupied territories in June to express their solidarity with the Saharawi population and to examine whether the guarantees for the holding of the vote are sufficient. Much space was devoted to observers of the referendum and to their mission on the ground. Mr Sidati, Minister Counsellor to the Presidency, asserted in his contribution that 'the Saharawi people is not going to accept the indefinite occupation of its country'. He asked for pressure to be exerted on Morocco to require it to permit observers and the international press to go to Western Sahara.
The 15th Grassroots Popular Congresses started their work in the wilayas of Dakhla and Ausserd. For four consecutive days they assessed local management issues and discussed the application of the programme developed by the 10th Congress of the Polisario Front in August 1999. The citizens elected mayors of their communes (dairas) and finalised a programme of local action adapted to their needs.
Cairo - Euro-Africa Summit
The King of Morocco, Mohammed VI and the Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika met in Cairo, immediately after the opening ceremony of the Europe-Africa Summit. The Egyptian President, Hosni Mubarak, the Tunisian President, Zine El Abidine Ben Ali and the Guide of the Libyan Revolution, Colonel Mouammar Khaddafi, were also present at this meeting, which lasted for about ten minutes. (AFP).
On the subject of Western Sahara, the Algerian President, at a press conference in Cairo, recalled that Algeria is committed to international legality and the relevant resolutions of the UN. (SPS).
A debate took place in the British House of Commons. Jeremy Corbyn MP asked what role the Government intended to play to promote a peaceful outcome of the conflict in Western Sahara and to avoid a second East Timor. In his reply, the Minister of State at the Foreign Office, Keith Vaz, said 'Even by African and middle eastern standards, Western Sahara is one of the more intractable problems.' Britain is in favour of a referendum, as quickly as possible, it wants a just and durable solution to the problem, that must be acceptable to the Saharawi people: 'We continue to believe that a just solution to the problem depends on the people of Western Sahara having the right to express their will at the ballot box.' The UK continues to support the UN Secretary General as well as James Baker and urges all parties to respond positively to Baker's mission.
Five Saharawi demonstrators, Bousoula Hasenna Moh, Haidan Ali Salem ben Ahmed, Bailla Mahfoud Sid Ahmed, Tounsi Bachir Brahim Mahjoub and Gazouani Saleh ben Brahim, arrested at the beginning of March in El Ayoun, have been given sentences ranging from five to ten years in prison, for 'betrayal' and 'inciting rebellion'. (SPS)
In reply to a question relating to the forthcoming visit of James Baker and to the possibility of a 'third way', Mr Bouzoubaâ, spokesman of the Moroccan Government, observed that 'Morocco has not changed its position. For us, there is no third way.' He recalled that the mission of Mr Baker is part of the UN settlement plan and that 'his role will doubtless be to work for the proper implementation of this plan'.
Mr James Baker, personal envoy of the UN Secretary General for Western Sahara, started a tour of the region. He arrived on Friday in London. With John Bolton, his personal assistant, he continued his trip to Algiers, where William Eagleton, the special representative for Western Sahara, joined the group. Talks are scheduled with the Algerian, Saharawi, Moroccan and Mauritanian authorities. On 11 April James Baker will arrive in Madrid to meet the Spanish Minister for Foreign Affairs, then finally on to Paris. A meeting with Jacques Chirac is expected to take place there.
«The referendum must take
The European movement of solidarity undertook several steps and actions towards the speedy holding of the referendum.
New York: visit of a European delegation to the seat of the UN, received by Bernard Miyet, assistant Secretary-general and by the American, Canadian, Norwegian, Algerian and French missions to UN.
The European Coordination of Committees of Support for the Saharawi People sent a letter to the UN Secretary General to express its support of him and to ask him, in order to hasten the referendum, to take the indispensable measures needed to allow free observation on the spot of the preparations for the referendum.
UK: The Western Sahara Campaign gave a letter to the UN office in London to forward to Kofi Annan. This raises the fact that members of the Moroccan Secret Services are reported to have been used as chauffeurs by MINURSO, and that two members of the mission acted as witnesses against Saharawi demonstrators in a trial in El Ayoun. WSC UK asks the UN to engage independent drivers and to include human rights monitors in its mission.
Demonstrations took place in front of the UN Information Centres in Brussels and Madrid.
The Republican congressman, Joseph R Pitts, David Woods and Greg Cary from the organisation Peco Energy announced on Thursday 6 April that they would give to the Saharawi people a bus furnished with medical equipment for ophthalmology and stomatology. This generous donation costing 220,000 US dollars is given as a contribution to alleviating the suffering of the Saharawi people. (SPS).
Italy, 11-12.04.00: Official visit of the King of Morocco.
Baltimore, USA, 06.04.-31.05.00
Refugee Children Showcase Their Art Works of young refugees from around the world are part of the «Far From Homeland», an exhibit making its U.S. debut at the Baltimore Lutheran Center. It's the first time the collection is being displayed outside of London and Greece. The exhibit, organized by the London International Gallery of Children's Art, showcases drawings by refugees who fled from Kosovo, Croatia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Western Sahara, Iran, Iraq, Turkey and Syria. It will travel to New York, Boston, Washington D.C., Dallas and San Diego.
NEW ON INTERNET
Drustvo za podporo Zahodni Sahari (Saharawi suport organisation, Slovenia) : http://www2.arnes.si/~hmoham/index.html
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