Polisario threatens to resume war

The Polisario Front has warned it will resume hostilities if a referendum on self-determination is not arranged soon.

    Polisario, a government in exile,
     based in southwest Algeria

    The Popular Front for the Liberation of the Saguia al Hamra and Rio de Oro (Polisario Front) gave the warnings at a press conference on Wednesday in the  town of Tindouf, southwest Algeria, according to the news agency APS. 

    "The aim of the ceasefire was to allow the organisation of a referendum on self-determination and the Sahrawis could take up arms again if such an aim is not achieved," said Muhammad Abdulaziz, leader of the Polisario Front.

    "The Sahrawi people have the legitimate right to have recourse to armed force to recover their independence," he said.

    Referendum delay

    Abdulaziz criticised the latest UN report, entitled "Peace Plan for self-determination for the people of Western Sahara”, which has been due for submission to the UN Security Council for some time.

    Baker: UN special envoy for
    Western Sahara

    He said there was nothing new in the report "compared with what has already been presented to the parties to the conflict."

    The report is being compiled by former US secretary of state James Baker - the special envoy of United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan.

    History of colonisation

    The Polisario Front, a government-in-exile recognised by 54 nations, is led by Muhammad Abdulaziz who agreed to the 1991 ceasefire in return for a referendum on independence. 

    Morocco annexed the northern two-thirds of Western Sahara (formerly named Spanish Sahara) when the Spanish withdrew in 1976.

    Under pressure from Polisario guerrillas, Mauritania abandoned all claims to sovereignty of the southern third in August 1979.

    Morocco moved to occupy the sector shortly thereafter and has since asserted administrative control.
     
    A guerrilla war contesting Rabat's occupation was fought for 12 years, but stopped when a UN-monitored cease-fire was implemented on 6 September 1991 with the promise of a referendum on the final status of the region.
     
    This has been repeatedly delayed through lack of agreement on who is eligible to vote.

    There are currently 65,000 Moroccan troops in the Western Sahara.


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