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Abidin Kaid Salah died in Madrid after a several month of severe illness.
Militant of the Polisario Front since its foundation and combattant of the Saharawi Liberation Army, he was the first Saharawi war reporter and filmed several war documentaries. He was seriously wounded in the battle of "LEBUERAT" in 1983 but continued to fight untill 1990. His friends remember him as a man of great courage and firmness in his struggle against Moroccan occupation and for independance, a man who loved his people and his country. His body has been repatriated and buried in his native land the SADR.(corr.)
Ali Salem Tamek wrote to the personal representative of the UN Secretary General to express to him his categorical rejection of any proposals for partial solutions to the conflict in Western Sahara, which, according to him, can only end with the organisation of a free and impartial referendum of self-determination. (Full text)
The Collective of Saharawi Human Rights defenders "from the territory of Western Sahara under Moroccan control" sent a letter in the same vein to James Baker. (Full text )
In El Ayoun prison 26 Saharawi political detainees observed a 48-hour hunger strike with Nassiri and Bazeid (see week 02/03), to protest about the conditions under which they are being held. Ali Salem Tamek, imprisoned in Salé, associated himself with their action.
The group announced a second hunger strike to last five days starting from 20 January. These protest actions from within prison found a response in university campuses. A student caravan of solidarity with the Saharawi political detainees will leave the university campus of Agadir, pass by Marrakech and Rabat and finish in Casablanca. Debates will be organised and stands set up to present to university audiences the reality of serious human rights abuses in Western Sahara, and to demand the release of all political detainees and for light to be shed on the fate of the disappeared. (corr.)
The Swiss branch of Amnesty International included Tamek in its world «Lettres contre l'oubli» (Letters against forgetting) and asks people to write to the Moroccan Minister for Justice.
Representatives of local branches in Assa of political parties, trades unions and Moroccan amazigh cultural associations published at the end of December 2002 a statement of solidarity with Tamek and called for his release. This step did not please the leaders of these organisations who recalled them to order, describing Tamek as "the enemy of Moroccan territorial integrity". Also the head of the Division of General Affairs of the province of Assa, on the orders of the Ministry of the Interior, summoned the authors of the statement to express his disapproval. However, they simply reiterated their solidarity with Tamek. (corr.)
Baker's tour of Morocco, Algeria and Mauritania
A UN spokesperson indicated in New York that Baker would present at the talks "a proposal for a political solution of the conflict of Western Sahara offering (to the population) a possibility of self-determination as requested by the Security Council resolution 1429 of 30 July last."
Agadir - before the meeting
Morocco will not make any concessions on its "territorial integrity", an authorised governmental source assured. Morocco "will listen to Mr Baker and will examine his proposals", but the kingdom "will make no concessions on its territorial integrity". "There is only one southern border of Morocco, which is the one with Mauritania."
Agadir - the
Mohamed VI received James Baker in the royal palace of Agadir. He was accompanied by William Swing, UN Secretary General's representative for the Sahara, in the presence of Mohamed Benaïssa, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Co-operation, Mustapha Sahel, Minister of the Interior, Taïb Fassi Fihri, deputy minister of Foreign Affairs and Co-operation, Fouad Ali Himma, deputy minister for the Interior and Mohamed Bennouna, permanent representative of Morocco to the UN.
Agadir - after
James Baker affirmed that his present tour in the region was aiming "to arrive at an initiative allowing a political settlement of the question of the Sahara". In a declaration on the television channel "Abu Dhabi", Baker indicated having made a proposal in this sense to Mohamed VI and to the Moroccan government for examination.
Mohamed Benaïssa declared that Morocco is giving time to "study the draft and the proposals of James Baker in a constructive spirit, paying homage to the efforts which he is making, which strengthen his credibility day by day and increase his knowledge of the issue". The Moroccan minister of Foreign Affairs added that Morocco reiterates "its entire disposition to co-operate with the United Nations, as it has always done, and expresses its attachment to international law through respect for the national sovereignty and territorial integrity of the kingdom".
Algiers - before the meeting
Referring to the construction of the Union of the Arab Maghreb, Abdelaziz Bouteflika pointed out that this "would be strengthened when the aspirations of the Saharawi people to the free exercise of their right to self-determination are fulfilled through the implementation of an impartial settlement plan of the United Nations (...)".
Algiers - the meeting
Abdelaziz Bouteflika received James Baker at the seat of the Presidency, in the presence of Abdelaziz Belkhadem, Minister of State, Minster of Foreign Affairs, Ahmed Ouyahia, Minister of State, personal representative of the President of the Republic, Abdelkader Messahel, Deputy Minister with a brief for Maghreb and African affairs, Abdellatif Rahal, diplomatic counselor of the President of the Republic, Larbi Belkheir, director of the cabinet at the Presidency, Mohamed Bedjaoui, President of the Constitutional Council and Abdallah Baali, permanent representative of Algeria at the United Nations.
after the meeting
James Baker affirmed to the press that he was the bearer of a new proposal for the settlement of the question of Western Sahara.
Rabouni (refugee camps)- before the meeting
"There will be no popular welcome, as was the case for the first visit of James Baker here", indicated Bachir El Mehdi, officer responsible for the reception of journalists coming from Algiers and Spain. "We are neither optimistic nor pessimistic, we are waiting before making a judgement", declared Mhamed Khaddad, Saharawi coordinator with MINURSO. "We will work with James Baker within the context of respect for international law. Our position is known and we are not asking for the impossible. We want a democratic solution."
Rabouni - the meeting
Baker was received for an hour by President Mohamed Abdelaziz and the Saharawi authorities, to whom he handed over his plan for a solution.
after the meeting
In a statement to the press, Baker indicated that he is waiting for a response from the parties to his proposals before 1 March next. The new plan will not be presented to the next meeting of the Security Council at the end of January 2003, there will just be a resolution for a technical extension of the mandate of MINURSO until the end of March, when Baker will present his plan and the responses of the parties.
For the Polisario Front the new plan presented under a misleading title of "Peace Plan for self-determination of the people of Western Sahara", retains the same orientation and the same objectives as the Framework-Agreement (week 26/2001), with the introduction of certain amendments of no great importance.
James Baker handed to the Mauritanian President Maaouiya Ould Taya a copy of his settlement plan. Baker declared as he left the meeting that his talks with Mr Ould Taya had been "very friendly and constructive" on the subject of the plan, the details of which he refused to reveal.
17.01.03: Manifestation is organized by the Coordinadora estatal de asociaciones de solidaridad y amistad con el pueblo saharaui in front of the French embassy in Madrid, later in front of the US Embassy. Letters to President Jacques Chirac and G.W.Bush will be handed over. A similar manifestation takes place in front of the French consulate in Bilbao, organized by the solidarity associations of Asturias, Navarra, Rioja, Bask Country and Aragon. (>> Carta a J. Chirac Presidente de la República Francesa >> Carta a G.W. Bush, Presidente de los Estados Unidos de América.)
In June 2002, the MEP Isidoro Sánchez García (ELDR) asked the Council (E-1732/02), what measures it intended to take with regard to the Moroccan government following the expulsion of a delegation of Spanish politicians and journalists in El Ayoun (see week 23/02). In its reply on 19 December 2002, the Council stated it fully supported the efforts of the UN to arrive at a solution of the conflict in Western Sahara, and favoured all contacts, including personal ones, which might contribute towards creating a climate of confidence between the parties.
Strasbourg: European Parliamentary Intergroup "Peace for the Saharawi People"
After its meeting, the intergroup declared that it wished to follow closely the visit of James Baker and the discussions which would take place in New York before 31 January and that it was seriously concerned by the situation of Saharawi political prisoners in Morocco. It also welcomed the position of the Spanish government supporting the UN peace plan. (Press release)
During his visit to Morocco, the French deputy minister for external trade, François Loos, criticised the Moroccan government: "It is difficult for Morocco to be a privileged partner of the European Union (EU) and to conclude at the same time a zone of free-exchange with the United States." "We can discuss everything, but we cannot aim for two things which are incompatible", he said a propos of the negotiations planned to take place between Rabat and Washington for the conclusion of a free-trade agreement, which will open in Washington on 21 January. Morocco could thus become the first country of the African continent to benefit from a system of free-exchange with the United States, which until now has only made agreements of this kind with four countries: Canada, Mexico, Jordan and Israel. (agencies)
According to Jeune Afrique, quoting a Moroccan diplomatic source, a meeting between President Abdelaziz Bouteflika and Mohamed VI has been agreed in principle. It could take place at the beginning of February, once the conclusions of James Baker's mission are made known. This rapprochement would be warmly encouraged by the United States and by France.
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