The United States is to sell warplanes to Morocco. The Carter administration hopes the sale?
The United States is to sell warplanes to Morocco. The Carter administration hopes the sale will coax King Hassan into negotiating an end to the long Western Sahara conflict. The exact terms of the deal, under which Morocco would initially get at least six OV-10 armed reconnaissance planes and some Cobra attack helicopters, will be worked out with the Moroccan leader over the next few weeks.
SYNOPSIS: King Hassan's troops have been fighting a long and bloody war over the Western Sahara, a former Spanish colony ceded to both Morocco and Mauritania in 1976. Morocco today controls the whole of the former province, since Mauritania withdrew its troops after a peace agreement with the Polisario Front guerrillas, who want independence for the Western Sahara. Since then the Algerian-backed guerrillas have thrown their full force in the battle against Morocco. The United States however believes the conflict cannot be resolved militarily. A high ranking State Department official, commenting on the Carter Administration's intention to seel warplanes to King Hassan, said the United States did not recognise Morocco's historic claim over the Western Sahara.
The official explained that the decision to sell arms was taken to strengthen King Hassan's hand and encourage him to open negotiations. The United States had to supply the king with "more than token equipment", the official continued, "if we are to encourage his willingness to negotiate". Only limited attempts have been made so far to negotiate a settlement between Morocco and the Polisario Front, but the official said the United States would consult Saudi Arabia, France and African countries, as well as Morocco and Algeria, as part of its attempt to launch peace talks. He added that the United States did not intend to take part directly in the proposed talks.