Mohammed VI stands firm on Western Sahara

07 November 2003
King Mohammed VI on 7 November reiterated Morocco's sovereignty over the disputed Western Sahara region. In a speech to the nation marking the anniversary of the 1975 Green March for the liberation of Western Sahara from Spanish colonialism, Mohammed called for 'reactivating aggressive diplomacy to defend our rightful cause'. He also rejected UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan's proposal for resolving the Western Sahara crisis. Annan on 20 October told the government of Morocco that it should accept a peace plan for Western Sahara that was recommended by former US Secretary of State James Baker. The plan, which would make the territory a semi-autonomous part of Morocco for a four or five-year period, would allow residents of the Western Sahara to choose independence, continued semi-autonomy or integration with Morocco (MEED 31:10:03).

Mohamed Abdulaziz, that leader of the Polisario Front, the Algeria-backed group seeking independence for Western Sahara, on 6 November announced that the group will release 300 of the 600 prisoners it is holding in southwetsern Algeria. Abdulaziz said the release, expected on 7 November, was in response to a request from Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi, and to mark the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, reported Reuters. International diplomats, who have been pressing for a final settlement on the Western Sahara issue, have welcomed the announcement.

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