In Lebanon, a spokesman for the Polisario Front guerrillas said war in the Western Sahara would start again, unless Mauritania accepts the latest peace terms.
In Lebanon, a spokesman for the Polisario Front guerrillas said war in the Western Sahara would start again, unless Mauritania accepts the latest peace terms. Mr. Al-Hiritani Al-Hassan was addressing a news conference in Beirut on Tuesday (12 December).
SYNOPSIS: Mr. Hassan is a member of the Polisario forces' Politburo. The Algerian backed guerrillas have been fighting for independence int he Western Sahara since 1976, when Spain ceded it's former colony to Mauritania and Morocco. The war against Mauritania was halted this year when the Polisario troops declared a unilateral ceasefire in July following the coup which toppled Mauritanian President, Moktar Ould Daddah. Mr. Hassan told newsmen that Mauritania's new military leaders headed by Lieutenant-Colonel Moustapha Ould Salek, had shown no desire for continued peace. He said Polisario forces would have to adopt a new tactic unless their terms for a negotiated settlement were accepted.
The issue of the Western Sahara conflict was one of the main reasons behind the Mauritanian coup. The war was unpopular since it placed a severe strain upon an economy already crippled by drought and crop failure. Colonel Salek promised to stand by Mauritania's defence pact with Morocco but said his government would search for a peaceful solution of the conflict. Now Mr. Hassan has restated the Polisario guerrillas's demand, calling for the withdrawal of Mauritanian troops and the recognition of their independence of the Sahrawi Republic in Western Sahara.
Mr. Hassan said these terms would have to be met before negotiations began. He added that the Polisario forces were assured of continued Algerian support even if Algeria's President Houari Boumedienne dies as a result of his current illness. Mr. Hassan claimed Polisario guerrillas were in control of more than half of the Western Sahara and were holding many Moroccan prisoners of war, including eight pilots.