Polisario meet in Western Sahara

Morocco says the group's staging of a congress in Tifariti breaches 1991 ceasefire.

    Morocco appealed to the UN for
    the meeting to be stopped [AFP]
    "We are leading a war of liberation which will continue until  our noble aims are achieved," Mohammed Abdelaziz, secretary-general of the Polisario Front, told those gathered at the conference.
     
    "International resolution legitimise our right to defend our  rights by all means possible, by peaceful resistance and by armed  struggle."
     
    Crisis
     
    The group's 12th general meeting, which began on Friday, comes ahead of the third round of the UN-sponsored negotiations with Morocco scheduled to begin next month outside New York.

     

    Preparations for the Tifariti meeting sparked a crisis with Morocco.


    The Moroccan foreign ministry called on Ban Ki-Moon, the UN secretary general, to stop the meeting, the holding of which it argued violated a 1991 ceasefire.


    Tayeb Fassi Fihri, Morocco's foreign minister, accused the UN mission in Western Sahara of taking a negative attitude about what he dubbed military irregularities by the Polisario Front.

     

    Western Sahara is Africa's longest-running territorial dispute, stretching back to 1975.

     
    No breakthrough

     

    The former Spanish colony is contested by Morocco, which considers the area part and parcel of its territorial integrity, and the Polisario Front which seeks its independence.

     

    In 1975, the Polisario Front waged a desert war to gain independence.

     

    The fighting ended in 1991 with a UN-negotiated ceasefire.

     

    Polisario holds a congress every three to four years. The last one was held in 2003.

     

    The Polisario's army, the Sahrawi Popular Army of Liberation (SPLA) number about 7,000 active soldiers.

     

    They are based in the region of Tindouf, in south west Algeria.

     

    The SPLA is mainly equipped with Russian-made weaponry donated by Algeria.

     

    Morocco and the Polisario Front have failed to find a breakthrough in two rounds of UN-brokered talks to resolve their 32 year dispute over Western Sahara.

     

    The talks ended with both sides calling for the other to compromise.

     

    The Polisario wants a referendum offering full independence, while Rabat has so far only been willing to offer limited autonomy under Moroccan sovereignty.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera


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