Representation in Australia

July 27, 2000


On 31 July 2000 a UN referendum was to be held in Western Sahara. Like the recent poll in East Timor this vote could have provided the people of Western Sahara a chance to exercise their right to self-determination and independence.

Morocco's delaying tactics and the UN's inability to put due pressure on the occupying power have once again prevented the organization of the referendum. Kamal Fadel, the Australian representative of the Western Sahara independence movement the Polisario Front, fears this may lead to a resumption of hostilities, "We believe that if Morocco continues in its current irresponsible and provocative attitude a return to war is inevitable."

The referendum was originally to be organised in 1992 but has been delayed many times due to Morocco's fear of losing the referendum.

Despite the UN's efforts and the cooperation of Polisario Front, Morocco continues to sabotage the referendum under the pretext that thousands of Moroccan citizens are entitled to take part in the vote.

This conflict over voting entitlements is at the core of the disagreement. After a gruelling five-year identification process the UN published lists of those entitled to vote in the referendum in January of this year. Morocco has rejected the results of the voter identification process leading to an indefinite delay in the referendum process.

Former US Secretary of State James Baker III, has been working to break the stalemate in the UN peace plan. In May and June of this year he chaired talks between both parties in London. So far the talks have failed to produce any positive results.

On 20 and 21 July 2000, talks between delegations representing Morocco and the Polisario Front were held in Geneva under UN auspices, to attempt to resolve technical issues related to the referendum process. Once again Morocco demonstrated its bad faith by refusing to seriously discuss these issues and on the second day refusing to attend the meetings.

Mr Fadel said, "Without the backing of the international community, the referendum is unlikely to go ahead. We call on the international community to put due pressure on Morocco in order to avoid a UN failure in Western Sahara and a return to hostilities."

For more information contact:

Kamal Fadel
Mobile: 61-416 335 197
Telephone: 61-2-9319 32 11

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