Press release of Western Sahara Alliance and Australian Western Sahara Association

Sidney, 06.02.02

A breakthrough United Nations ruling has exposed Morocco's occupation of the North African nation of Western Sahara as illegitimate and illegal.

The UN Office of Legal Affairs has reported that Morocco's signing of deals with two multinational oil companies contravene international law.

The body briefed the UN Security Council on the oil contracts, declaring that a treaty signed by Morocco and the decolonising power Spain in 1975 did not transfer sovereignty of the Western Sahara and did not make Morocco the administrator for the territory.

This means that by international law Morocco is an occupying power of the territory of the Western Sahara.

The UN lists the Western Sahara as a nation awaiting independence, but Morocco has been obstructing moves towards a referendum on self-determination for ten years.

Stephanie Brennan, spokesperson of the Western Sahara Alliance, stated that the decision vindicates the strong international campaign against the illegal oil prospecting deals-signed by Morocco with French giant Total-FinaElf and American multinational Kerr McGee.

"This decision proves that the international campaign to stop the US and French companies illegally plundering Western Sahara's natural resources is working," she said. "Morocco should listen to the voices throughout the international community and terminate their illegal contracts immediately.

"Although Australia is a long way from the conflict, trade union, political, human rights and student bodies here have been very vocal on this important international issue," Stephanie said.

The report by Under-Secretary for UN Legal Affairs Hans Corell says:

*On the oil deals: "if further exploration and exploitation activities were to proceed in disregard of the interests and wishes of the people of Western Sahara they would be in violation of the international law principles applicable to mineral resource activities in Non-Self-Governing Territories."

*On the 1975 Madrid Agreement: "[it] did not transfer sovereignty over the territory, nor did it confer upon any signatories the status of an administering power."

For more information, contact Stephanie Brennan of the Western Sahara Alliance on 0402 659 044 or 9320 0042 or Jamie Parker of AWSA 0407 869 249

For further information visit: http:www.awsa-westernsahara.org

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