A spokesman for the Saharan liberation movement, the Polisario, accused France this week of continued military intervention in the Western Sahara.
A spokesman for the Saharan liberation movement, the Polisario, accused France this week of continued military intervention in the Western Sahara. The area was formerly a Spanish colony and was ceded to Morocco and Mauritania in 1975. The Polisario are now waging a guerrilla war against these two countries to obtain self-determination for the people of the territory.
SYNOPSIS: The guerrillas are supported by the Algerian government and in Algiers on Monday (27 March), Polisario held a press conference to condemn French and Spanish attitudes to the Western Sahara. The Information Minister of the self-styled Arab Democratic Sahraui Republic, Mr. Mohamed Salem Ould Salek, said French jet fighters and observation planes continued to fly over the area. The fact that there had been no more losses in Polisario ranks did not mean the intervention has ceased, he said. Rather, the guerrillas were no longer taken by surprise. Mr. Salek also said French troops were stationed in Mauritania and in Senegal.
It is not the first time the Polisario has accused the French of military activity in the region. For the most part, Paris has refrained from comment on the accusations, except for answering once that French aircraft stationed in Senegal and Mauritania were available to carry out operations to defend French nationals, and at the request of Mauritania. Earlier claims that napalm and phosphorous bombs were used were dismissed by the French, who say the aircraft have no such weapons.
Mr. Salek also repeated condemnation of Spain's attitude towards the region. He said the Spanish government was continuing a policy of what he termed "tears on and cowardice" towards the Sahraui country. The Polisario wanted Spain to renounce the 1975 Madrid Agreement ceding the territory to Morocco and Mauritania. Earlier this year the Polisario warned that a new Spanish-Moroccan fisheries agreement was a provocation and the guerrillas declared the fishing banks off the coast of the Sahara a "war zone".
Mr. Salek said he was satisfied by the attitude of the United States which had not yet met a Moroccan demand to provide aircraft specially adapted for ant-guerrilla warfare.
He said the U.S. caution was justified - as the arms demanded by Morocco would be used to exterminate a people struggling for their independence.