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Refugee camps
On the initiative of the Plataforma de Mujeres Artistas contra la Violencia de Género (Platform of women artists against gender violence in Spain), which brings together well-known artists, a delegation of about a hundred celebrities from the worlds of theatre, arts and literature, as well as journalists and politicians, spent several days in the refugee camps. Many artists present led a festival of solidarity with recitals of poetry, music and song. Some 25,000 toys, collected in recent weeks in the whole of Spain, were given to Saharawi children. The delegation also visited various establishments such as the School of 9 June, the national hospital, the centre for professional training,  "Chahid el Ghezouani" among others.


In protest against the sentencing of a young Saharawi shepherd, accused of having put a landmine on the road from Tan-Tan to Smara near Abbatieh (see week
01/03), Saharawi students organised a sit-in outside the prison management headquarters in Rabat. They also demanded the release of all political prisoners and the sentencing of those responsible for the death under torture of  Mohammed Boucetta (see week 50/02). (As-Sabah, 02.01.03)

Saharawi political prisoners
Ahmed Nassiri and Salek Bazeid (see weeks 39 + 40/02) (members of the Forum of Truth and Justice, Sahara branch)  detained in the prison of El Ayoun, will begin a 48-hour hunger strike on 13 January. They announced that they would have recourse to other forms of protest until their claims are satisfied: the status of political prisoners and improvement in visiting rights. (As-Sabah, press review by the French embassy in Rabat)

Ali Salem Tamek
Last week, the Saharawi political prisoner,  
Ali Salem Tamek, imprisoned at Salé, received a visit from the president of the Moroccan Observers of prisons, Mr Abderrahim Jamâi,  who informed himself about prison conditions at the prison of Inezegan, where Tamek had previously been living.
On 6 January, a delegation from the Ministry of Justice also paid a him visit for talks on the same subject and his claims.
Meanwhile, as a demonstration of solidarity with Tamek and Saharawi political prisoners, which took place at Assa on 1 January (see week
01/03) an action committee for the release of  Ali Salem Tamek and all Saharawi political prisoners was set up. The secretariat is composed of former political detainees and members of the family of Tamek. Mohamed Daddach was appointed the president of honour. (corr.)


Baker's mission
The Government of Morocco is ready to listen to all the proposals to be made by Baker and will adopt a suitable standpoint in this regard, Moroccan Communication Minister and Spokesman for the Government,  Nabil Benabdallah, said. Morocco remains attached to the Moroccan identity of the Sahara and to any political settlement likely to consecrate Moroccan sovereignty over the southern provinces. (MAP)

On the eve of James Baker's tour, from 14-17.01.03, from Rabat to Algiers, Tindouf and Nouakchott, several commentators have been analysing the role of the USA in the Maghreb.

François Soudan in  Jeune Afrique/L'Intelligent puts his name to an article, in which he points out that Algeria has become since September 11 the key state of the region in the eyes of  Washington, which has just promised Algiers the delivery of sensitive military equipment. For F. Soudan, Rabat fears that Washington would push for a sort of freezing of the dossier of the Sahara, in order to allow the Arab Maghreb Union to exist, or James Baker to produce a settlement plan not in line with Moroccan interests. For everything has changed since 11 September, in favour of a single grid for understanding. See: "L'ami algérien", François Soudan, Jeune Afrique/L'Intelligent, N°2191 du 5 au 11 janvier 2003.

In Counter Punch, an American publication of alternative information, Wayne Madsen reaches a conclusion which is diametrically opposed. He makes an issue of the close links between Baker and the oil lobby with the Bush administration, in order to conclude that American oil interests (which go along with those of France) are determining the development of the conflict. He concludes in a very pessimistic vein that the world superpower will inevitably choose the Moroccan camp as its regional ally. In the case where the Saharawis refuse Baker's plan and take up war again, they will be declared a terrorist organisation with all the consequences which that involves. See: "USA Big Oil and James Baker Target the Western Sahara", Wayne Madsen, CounterPunch, 08.01.03.

Carlos Ruiz Miguel, in an analysis for the Elcano Royal Institute of Madrid, refers to the mediation of the USA in Sudan and analyses the process of settling the conflict. He shows that the American strategy of creating new states or federations of states, considered as barriers to terrorism, could be applied to other conflicts, in particular that of Sahara. See: "Pax americana en Sudán: ¿un modelo para el Sahara y Oriente Medio? " Carlos Ruiz Miguel, Análisis del Real Instituto Elcano, 09.01.03.


Moroccan-American military manoeuvres
Ground and amphibian military manoeuvres, involving Moroccan and American troops, have been taking place since the beginning of January in the south of Morocco, south of Tan-Tan, a few kilometres from Western Sahara according to AP, near Abbatieh (South Morocco) according to the Moroccan daily Al-Ahdath al-Maghribia. The American embassy in Rabat refused to comment to AP about this information.


REFERENDUM NOW - Action Campaign for the Implementation of the Peace Plan


28 janvier, de 17 à 20 h, Assemblée nationale française, à l'invitation de Daniel Paul, député de Seine Maritime: «Sahara Occidental, un problème de décolonisation non résolu: quels enjeux ?», débat organisé par l'Association française des Amis de la RASD et la représentation du Front Polisario en France.


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