Threats against MINURSO

Sources close to the MINURSO have told Al-Sharq al-Awsat' that members of the mission based in Tindouf have been seriously worried since they received threats from Algeria's Armed (Islamic) Group (GIA), which has warned the United Nations against providing support for the Algerian authorities. The threats received by the Minurso staff have prompted them to take all the necessary precautions to ward off.

The French "Comit╚ sur le Sahara Occidental" announces the death of its co-president Georges Montaron, former chief editor of the newspaper T╚moignage Chr╚tien and old friend and supporter of the Saharawi cause.

US Congress supports referendum
The US House of Representatives expresses its support for a selfdetermination referendum for the people of Western Sahara, that should meet the following criteria: a) fair, free and transparent and held in the presence of international and domestic observers and international media, without administrative or military presssure or interference; b) only genuine Sahrawis, as identified in the method agreed to by both sides, will take part in the referendum voting, and c) the result, once certified by the United Nations, is accepted by both sides. It requests the administration to fully support Mr James Baker in his misssion.

Fourths Committee of UN General Assembly.

In its hearing about Western Sahara, the Committee hears 4 petitioners, despite the Moroccan tentatives to awoid the discussion (see last week) and a diffamatory campaign in the Moroccan newspapers which affirmed the request for a hearing of a group of French elected officials was an individual request and that the signatories to his letter had been coerced into signing it.

JEAN-PAUL LECOQ, Mayor of Gonfreville l'Orcher, France, speaking on behalf of 14 elected French officials - Gilles Aicardi, Mayor of Cuges les Pins; Jo╬l Batteux, Mayor of St Nazaire; Claude Billard, Deputy of Val de Marne; P. Cohen, Deputy and Mayor of Ramonville Saint Agne; J.-C. Delalonde, Mayor of Loon Plage; Mireille Elmalan, President of the Interparlamentary Delegation for the realtions with the Maghreb States of the European Parlament ; Fran┴ois Geindre, Mayor of H╚rouville Saint Clair; Robert Jarry, Mayor of Le Mans; Jean Le Garrec, Deputy of North; G╚rard Mauduit, General Councelor; M. Ouvrard, Mayor of Argenteuil; Aline Pailler, member of European Parlament, Daniel Paul, Deputy of Seine Maritime - said that the rights of the people of Western Sahara should be defended. He welcomed the progress made with respect to the identification of referendum voters, the code of conduct and the release of prisoners. However, a heightened vigilance must be maintained. A mission of elected officials, organized by both Morocco and by the POLISARIO, should be sent to the region. Would the United Nations be the exclusive authority during the transition phase in the Western Sahara and receive the necessary resources? he asked. Would it control access to the media and implement conditions of the code of conduct, including freedom of expression and movement ? Would there be independent referendum monitors ? The French signatories would make every effort to support Sahrawis' right to self-determination.

FELIPE BRIONES VIVES, of the Federaci█n Estatal de Instituciones Solidarias con el Pueblo Saharaui, said there were many Spanish institutions which supported the Sahrawi people. In historical survey he explained that Morocco had no historical claim to the area. In 1974, Spain undertook a census in the region. In 1975, it adopted a decolonization law on the Sahara, by which there would be a self-determination referendum. On what basis had Morocco invaded the southern half of Western Sahara at that time? Almost by magic, Morocco had made itself one of the two parties which would decide the future of the people.
There had been progress because the principles of the Western Sahara settlement plan had been followed but the MINURSO must be cautious. During the transition period, would MINURSO make it possible for eminent persons to enter the region? "Would MINURSO become a perpetrator in the staging of a farce?"

AHMED BOUKHARI of the POLISARIO said that after the dangerous impasse which for so long deadlocked the peace process in Western Sahara, new perspectives had emerged. There were solid reasons to believe that the decolonization conflict in the region could be ended in a just and definitive manner.
IAs a result of direct talks administered by Mr. Baker, POLISARIO and Morocco had reached agreements capable of overcoming the problems that had been preventing implementation of the peace plan. However, past experience showed that it was important to remain vigilant. The United Nations, in cooperation with the Organization of African Unity (OAU), should provide leadership in that process and not be led by either of the parties.

TERESA K. SMITH DE CHERIF, of the Sahara Fund, said the referendum proces was going on too slowly but now progress have beeen made. However, it is important to determine whether there would be a climate of fairness or intimidation in the upcoming referendum. Vigilance is necessary. The identification of prospective voters has to be monitored closely. Further, there must be no change in Western Saharan demographics, as a drive to repopulate Western Sahara would manipulate the outcome of the referendum.
The pre-electoral atmosphere in the region could validate or invalidate the outcome of the election, she went on to say. Several conditions existed which must be met in order to ensure a fair and equitable result. Among other things, Sahrawi returnees and residents of the region must feel safe.

News from the refugee camps
08 -12.10.97 Festival of traditional folklore
It takes place during five days in all the Saharawi camps. Each wilaya (district) organizes a camp with traditional tents including exhibitions of traditional work. There are also shows, conferences, poetry competitions and sports like camel race.

Solidarietř, Cooperazione, Riabilitazione
Bologna, 25 Ottobre 1997, Ore 9-17, Istituti Ortopedici Rizzoli, Via di Barbiano, 1/10 L'intento di questa gironata ╦ costituire un'iniziativa-ponte fra la figura del Terapista della Riabilitazione e le ONG che si occupano di realizzare progetti riabilitativi in Paesi in Via di Sviluppo.Inoltre s'intende sensibilizzare i Terapisti ad aderire ai progetti dell'Associazione Italiana Terapisti della Riabilitazione sulla cooperazione: Progetto Romania e Progetto Sahraui. Con la partecipazione del rappresentante del Fronte Polisario in Italia. Mostra fotografica "Un popolo nel deserto", immagini della vita del Popolo Sahraui. For Information : E. Vellati, e-mail: emiliove@box1.tin.it


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