The députée, Anne-Marie Lizin, asked the Minister of Foreign Affairs about Western Sahara. Louis Michel replied that, «in order to avoid the resumption of hostilities by the Polisario Front, the UN must maintain its presence on the ground. (...) Belgium continues to support fully the peace plan. It is important to unblock the situation without putting into question what has been achieved over many years.» (Annals of the Senate of Belgium)
The Saharawi coordinator with MINURSO had talks with the presidents of parliamentary committees and with delegations from the parliamentary groups and political parties. Mr Khaddad announced that the Polisario Front «rejects any solution other than the referendum [as well as] autonomy or partition of the Saharawi territory as a first step towards a wider autonomy».(SPS)
The president of the European Commission wrote to Pierre Galand, president of the European Coordination of Support for the Saharawi People, that the Commission is following closely the development of the implementation of the peace plan and affirms its full support for the efforts of Kofi Annan and James Baker. According to Romano Prodi, the Commission is holding itself ready to lend its assistance at the different stages of the peace plan.
Mohamed VI in France
The Saharawi Government, through the voice of its Minister of Foreign Affairs, expressed the view in a communiqué that «France has the moral and historical responsibility to help the young King of Morocco out of the present impasse by putting an end to the Moroccan adventure in Western Sahara.» He asked France to contribute to the organisation of the referendum in Western Sahara and to avoid «taking dead end roads». (communiqué from the Saharawi Ministry of Foreign Affairs).
Mr Alain Bocquet, député for the North, chair of the Communist Group in the French National Assembly, appealed to the French Government «to express its desire to see Morocco contribute to the success of the peace plan in Western Sahara».
The Association of Friends of SADR (AARASD), the Association of Friendship and Solidarity with the Peoples of Africa (AFASPA) and the SFO (French Section of the International Observatory of the Referendum in Western Sahara) exhorted the French authorities to «respect the implementation of the peace plan and to oppose any delaying tactics». These associations also called on France «to intercede with Mohamed VI to put an end to the violence and brutality suffered by the population of Western Sahara». (SPS)
The spokesman for the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs announced that Western Sahara figured among the topics for discussion undertaken with the King of Morocco: «France recalled that a lasting solution must be found, in order to ensure the stability of the Maghreb. (...) It welcomed the intention of Mr Kofi Annan to entrust to his personal envoy, Mr James Baker,with a new mission in the region».
A delegation of the group in the European Parliament responsible for relations with the Arab Maghreb visited Morocco. The delegation was received by the Prime Minister and the Presidents of the two chambers. The talks included the question of Western Sahara. The President of the lower chamber announced that «Morocco is committed to building the Maghreb, on condition that its territorial integrity should be preserved».
According to Saharawi Radio, picked up by the BBC, the Moroccan authorities released on 15 March Hamid Belkheir, alias Bebeto, a Saharawi arrested and disappeared since 6 February 1999.
SADR President Mohamed Abdelaziz took part in festivities in Windhoek marking the 10th anniversary of the independence of Namibia. During his official visit, the Saharawi president had talks with the Namibian President, Sam Nujoma as well as with several other African heads of state.
The Parliament of Navarra passed a resolution in which it reiterated its full support for the peace plan.
The Association of Families of Saharawi Disappeared (AFAPREDESA) announced that five young Saharawis, accused of destruction of public property, of attacks on security and public liberties and also of participation in a non-authorised demonstration, will appear at the court of Agadir on March 29. The accused, arrested at the beginning of March in El Ayoun, are alleged to have been forced to sign confessions under torture.
AFAPREDESA also announced that four Saharawi citizens were abducted on 15 March in El Ayoun; and that others such as Laroussi Omar, Lakhal Salem, Ibrahim Brarhi and Mohamed Kerkoubi, are being actively searched for by the Moroccan police.
56th Session of the UN Commission of Human Rights, Geneva
In the name of the Federation of Associations for the Defence and Promotion of Human Rights (Spain), Guerrero recalled that the referendum on self-determination in Western Sahara has still not taken place. He expressed his anxiety faced with the risk of a new conflict and considered that a legitimate solution could only come from a fair and transparent referendum, under the auspices of the United Nations, with the support of the international community. (UN)
Mohamed Aaujjar, Moroccan Minister for Human Rights, emphasised in his declaration that «human rights have a high priority for the Moroccan state». He asked for an enquiry into the situation of the Saharawi refugees in the camps in Algeria, where, according to him, Moroccans are detained against their will (...) and suffer the martyrdom of torture, forced labour and the deprivation of the most elementary rights. (AFP)
Received in Madagascar by the Prime Minister, Moroccan representatives proposed the resumption of economic relations between the two countries and expressed Morocco's desire to «turn the page». Madagascar is the first state to have recognised the Saharawi Republic in 1976. Morocco had immediately broken off its relations with the Great Island and then reestablished them in 1993.
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