/ 8 November 2010

Sahara activists reject Moroccan king’s intervention

Western Saharan activists were dismissed on Sunday by Morocco’s King Mohammed VI. He accused Algeria of oppressing Saharwi refugees as obstructive ahead of UN-brokered talks on the territory.

A statement from the Polisario Front said the king’s comments “interfere with efforts to settle the conflict” just before the start on Monday of two days of talks near New York between Morocco and Polisario.

In a speech on Saturday, the king called for the international community to end what he said was the “repression” that refugees at a camp in Tindouf, south-west Algeria, were suffering at the hands of the Algerians.

Morocco considers the Saharwi refugees there — more than 160, 000 according to Polisari — to be Moroccan nationals.

The two sides along with officials from Algeria and Mauritania will meet in Greentree in the New York suburbs on Monday and Tuesday, the third time the two sides have met for such talks.

Western Sahara was annexed by Morocco after Spanish settlers withdrew in 1975. The Polisario Front fought the Moroccan presence until the United Nations (UN) brokered a ceasefire in 1991.

Polisario Front, backed by Algeria, wants a UN-organised self-determination referendum. Morocco has so far rejected any proposal that goes beyond greater autonomy.

Following the talks, the two delegations, as well as UN envoy Christopher Ross, are expected to make statements.

Moroccan police dismantle Laayoune refugee camps
Meanwhile, Moroccan police were deployed in Western Sahara on Monday to dismantle a refugee camp set up in Laayoune, injuring several people during the operation, witnesses said.

“Law enforcement officers arrived around dawn using high-powered water cannon to clear the camp and several ambulances were seen taking the injured to hospitals,” said an AFP reporter on the scene.

Local officials said the operation was aimed at a group who had refused orders to leave the camp. — Sapa-AFP