Italian Parliament (14.01.99)
Following a mission by a parliamentary delegation headed by Mr. Leccese (see week 45 / 98 ), and a debate involving the under-secretary of state for foreign affairs, Mr. Serri, the foreign affairs commission unanimously endorsed a resolution that calls on the Italian government to continue to support the United Nations peace process for the Western Sahara and also to seek out support from appropriate international and bilateral organizations, so that the referendum will take place without further delay. The commission also called on the Italian government to promote dialogue between the parties, "and to eventually offer to host this dialogue in our country."

Swedish Parliament

An interparliamentarian group was formally founded in the Swedish Parliament. The group consists of 22 MPs out of 349, and represents all political parties sitting in the parliament. The leader of the group, Kent Härstedt, is very dedicated to Western Sahara: "It was a good start and it will be easy to recruit a lot of members!"

The disappeared

The national council of the Moroccan organization for human rights (OMDH) met to study the issue of forced disappearances and concluded that four months after the declaration of the consultative council on human rights (see week 42 / 98 ) there have been no clarifications regarding measures taken by public authorities to resolve this issue. "It is extremely unclear as to the measures taken," the OMDH added and restated that it is essential that the issue of the disappeared be dealt with in a transparent, impartial and objective manner.

Appeal of the European Coordination

In the face of Morocco's ongoing rejection of the UN's package, the Task Force of the European Coordination of Sahrawi support committees, meeting in Paris, called on European governments and the European Union Council of Ministers to "take urgent measures to pressure the Moroccan government to respect all clauses of the Peace Plan and Houston Agreements."

Human rights

The Canary Islands Sahrawi solidarity association condemned the expulsion to Morocco of two Sahrawi citizens. They are Mohamed Chigali (1967) and Abdallah Ruh, both born in the Western Sahara. The first lived in the Sahrawi refugee camps in Algeria from 1976 to 1996, the second from 1989 to 1996. They then went to Mauritania and from there to the Canary Islands, where they have been living since 1998 with Mauritanian passports and Sahrawi identity cards. In early February, both Sahrawis were detained at Tenerife, then handed over to Moroccan authorities in Melilla, even though they were clearly identified as Sahrawi citizens. The association considers this a serious violation of human rights and fears that the two will join the list of disappeared. It is calling on Canary Island representative in the Spanish Parliament to demand an explanation from the Minister of the Interior (Canarias7).

AFAPREDESA ( Association of families of disappeared and detained Saharawis) states that these expulsions violate the Geneva Convention, the 1951 United Nations Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees and Spanish law.

«There is no landmine problem in Morocco»

According to Moroccan university researcher, Hassan Marchane, Morocco does not suffer from the scourge of antipersonnel mines. He pointed out that the planting of landmines in Western Sahara by the Moroccan military poses no threat to civilians. He added that the army will have no problem cleaning up the landmines because it possesses the necessary plans and maps (MAP).

Lobbying I
A group of staffers from the U.S. Congress, on invitation by Morocco, arrived in occupied Western Sahara. Moroccan authorities showed them Morocco 's technological accomplishments in the territory, and held meetings with pro-Moroccan Sahrawi notables, Sahrawi defectors and Moroccan observers with the Identification Commission.

An official visit to the United States by the Moroccan Prime Minister is planned for April (Al-Ousbou, Moroccan daily).

Lobbying II

The Washington Post reports that the well-known American lobbying firm Cassidy & Associates suddenly terminated the $1.2 million contract that it signed with Morocco last summer (Legal Times, 13 July 1998). The firm simply stated that it had completed its work, while the Washington Post journalist asks: «Have the Kingdom of Morocco and Cassidy & Associates, one of Washington's premier lobbying firms, been outflanked by a former desert tribesman-turned-lobbyist ?» meaning Moulud Said, Polisario Representative, who runs since several years a sucessfull one man campaign for the Saharawi people, with no money.




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