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The Norwegian seismic survey company TGS-Nopec decided to give up any further seismic surveys in Saharawi territorial waters. This is what has just been announced by its financial officer Arne Helland to members of parliament at a meeting organised by the Norwegian Support Committee for Western Sahara. He admitted that his company had made a mistake in accepting an oil prospecting contract in a zone over which Morocco does not exercise sovereignty. This week TGS-Nopec will hand over to TotalFinaElf, Kerr McGee and the Moroccan company, ONAREP, the results of work which was completed last month. The national pension fund and the largest Norwegian insurance company, Storebrand, which together hold 12.5% of the shares, was about to announce this week that it was withdrawing its investment in TGS-Nopec. (See
week 07/2003)

Meanwhile, the Australian company, Fusion Oil & Gas, contracted by the Saharawi government to analyse data from earlier explorations, handed over its results this week. These conclude that there are oil fields of potential commercial interest in the territorial waters of Western Sahara. (see week  21-22/2002)


The annual general meeting of the Forum for Truth and Justice, Sahara branch, charged with electing a new executive, due on 2 March, has been postponed until the beginning of May. The president of the Forum Mr Essabar Mohammed who went to El Ayoun to supervise the meeting, was searched very thoroughly on his arrival at the airport, which is not customary. Three activists of the Sahara branch of the Assa FTJ, on their way to this general meeting, were arrested on 28.02.03 by the royal gendarmerie at the road block at the entrance to Goulimine. They were taken to the gendarmerie's station where they were interrogated from midnight until 4 o'clock in the morning. Their bags were searched. (corr.)

The body of Mohammed Boucetta assassinated in prison on 28 November 2002, was returned to his family accompanied by the autopsy report which confirmed a violent death. The funeral cortege of about sixty people, was watched closely by police and the DST. (see week 50/2002).


Question to Chirac on the eve of his visit to Algeria about the French position on the question of Western Sahara:
"This question is important for the stability and development of the whole of the Maghreb. France and Algeria will hold discussions on Western Sahara in complete friendship and trust. I am persuaded that a realistic political solution should be sought between the parties, under the aegis of the United Nations, to find a way out of the conflict which is delaying progress towards the integration of the Maghreb. Mr James Baker recently made proposals which deserve serious examination, but my country does not have to pronounce on their content. I believe that an in-depth dialogue between Algiers and Rabat would allow progress towards a solution. France also thinks that the Polisario Front should proceed with the immediate and total release of the 1160 Moroccan prisoners of war still held, which constitutes an obligation under international law and would represent a humanitarian gesture of importance which would be very much appreciated by the world community." (El Watan)


The EU welcomed the release of a hundred Moroccan prisoners of war by the Polisario Front. It emphasises in a statement by the Greek presidency, the necessity of improving the humanitarian situation of the people in the populations touched by this persistent crisis. It expects the Polisario Front to release immediately all of the prisoners of war, underlining that a distinction should be made between the humanitarian aspects of the conflict and the political problem. The EU encourages all contacts liable to contribute to re-establishing a climate of confidence between the parties, the objective being to find a lasting solution in complete respect of international law.


Air France
The French Committee on Western Sahara denounced in a statement the failure to respect international law by the French company Air France.  Its latest Magazine (n°71 of March 2003) publishes a map of the region which includes Western Sahara in Morocco (p. 92). The Committee asks Air France to publish in the next issue of its Magazine a correction which will permit its readers to be informed of the real situation.


The Euro-Mediterranean Network of Human Rights (Le Réseau euro-méditerranéen des droits de l'Homme - REMDH) welcoming the favourable development Morocco has seen since the beginning of the 90s, emphasises the persistence of abductions by security services (DST), torture and the institution in the new press code of a new offence  (article 41) "of attacks on the Islamic religion,  the monarchy and territorial integrity".


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