WEEK 05, 29.01-04.02.1996

South African Foreign Minister Alfred Nzo announces at a news briefing in Johannesburg his 10-day trip to Morocco and Algeria to further bilateral relations and get the views of their leaders on the future of the Western Sahara. He also hopes to meet leaders of the Western Sahara. Nzo explains Mandela had been on the verge of sending a letter to Polisario leaders last year intimating South Africa's readiness to grant them recognition. This had been put off, however, at the request of United Nations and the Organisation of African Unity for fear of jeopardising the referendum. Senior South African sources said the referendum had been put back again, but Pretoria could go ahead with its recognition of the Sahrawi Republic if the referendum was further delayed.

Radio Nacional de Angola, reported by Reuters, announces that, after his two-day visit to Angola, Alfred Nzo is due to leave for Morocco and Algeria where he is to discuss the Western Sahara issue. A few hours before Nzo arrives in Morocco Febr. 01, the South African embassy in Rabat said the visit was cancelled. It did not say why. Nzo was expected to travel to Algeria on Febr. 4.

Joumoua Fazzani, Secretary-General of the Libyan Popular Committee, announces, in a declaration published by the daily newspaper Acharq Al Awsat, published in London, that the chiefs of states of the Arab Maghreb Union (AMU) decided to freeze any type of meetings before the settlement of the problem between Morocco and Algeria concerning Western Sahara.
Tunesia and Algeria refute this statement next day. The Algerian Minister of Foreign Affairs declares that an agreement was found with Tunesia and Mauritania on Jan. 31 about the response to Morocco, which asked to freeze of the AMU. The terms of the agreement were not revealed.
Morocco expressed on Febr. 02 astonishment that three North African foreign ministers met in Algeria despite Rabat's refusal to attend.

The Security Council renewed until May 31 1996 the 370-member U.N. Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara (MINURSO). The latest council resolution expressed "deep concern about the stalemate which has been hindering the identification process" and the consequent lack of progress towards completing the U.N. plan for the territory. It called on Morocco and Polisario to cooperate with Boutros-Ghali and MINURSO in overcoming obstacles and to consider additional ways of creating mutual confidence. With the aim of exerting more pressure and trying to speed voter identification, it invited the secretary-general, in the absence of progress, to submit a detailed programme for a phased withdrawal of MINURSO. This was one of the options he suggested in his recent report, in which he said just over 60,000 voters had so far been identified but that another 174,000 applicants still had to be processed. He said if both sides cooperated fully, that could theoretically be completed in about 22 weeks although a more realistic estimate would be 44 weeks, he added. Allowing extra time to consider appeals against decisions by the voter identification commission, he said: "It follows, therefore, that a period ranging from six months to one year would be required to complete the identification process". "Extending MINURSO's mandate for another four months, until the end of May, should give enough time for resumption of the voter identification process and to "test the political will of the parties in deed rather than merely words," he said. His next report to the council is due by May 15.

Security Council Resolution: Reactions
The Polisario Front is open to dialogue with Morocco, said Bachir M. Sayed, Sahrawi coordinator with MINURSO. But "Even the word "dialog" seems yet taboo in the mind of the Moroccan authorities". "Morocco suffers of a type of mental paralysis".
The Moroccan ambassador at the U.N. declared that "his country had sufficiently shown to the whole world its sincere will and deep desire to see this referendum succeed". He hopes: "The Security Council will show one time the responsible of the crash of the MINURSO". He did not mention any possibility of dialog between Morocco and Polisario Front.

According to Mrs M. Albright, US Permanent Representative at U.N., the United States still support the U.N. Peace Plan, including its central part: a free, fair and regular referendum. Both parties have, in the next monthes, to establish confidence between themselves. USA wil continue to help to find a solution. This position is understood by U.N diplomates as an incitement to a direct dialogue between Morocco and the Polisario Front (APS).

- FORGOTTEN GRABS, The Economist, London, 27.01.96.

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