Morocco's King Hassan on Monday (3 December) called for the postponement of an Organisation of African unity (OAU) meeting on the Western Sahara because he claimed certain members were not impartial.
Morocco's King Hassan on Monday (3 December) called for the postponement of an Organisation of African unity (OAU) meeting on the Western Sahara because he claimed certain members were not impartial. Meanwhile, Morocco tightened its grip on part of the Western Sahara originally ceded to Mauritania. A ministerial delegation from the Moroccan capital of Rabat arrived in the Western Saharan city of Dakhla on Saturday (1 December) to attend a ceremony which installed representatives of the Moroccan monarch. Heading the delegation, the Interior Minister Monsieur Driss Basri used the occasion to condemn what he called Algerian and Poilisario interference in the disputed area, and to reaffirm Morocco's claim to sovereignty over the region.
SYNOPSIS: Dakhla is key town in the disputed area. For more than three years the Polisario Front has been waging guerrilla war against Morocco and Mauritania in its campaign for the independence of the territory. The area was ceded by Spain to Mauritania and Morocco in 1976. The Moroccans have received about fifteen million dollars worth of military equipment a year from the United States and have been negotiating for more.
Using its sophisticated weapons Morocco attempted to secure control of the whole phosphate-rich, former Spanish colony. Then Mauritania renounced all its claims on its part of the territory. A large-scale offensive against the Algerian-backed Polisario Front has been launched in recent months in an efforts to keep the area in Moroccan hands.
Hundreds of people turned out in the Dakhla town square to greet the Moroccan Minister of Interior Monsieur Driss Basri.
This colourful shows of allegiance to Morocco occurred just three days before the O.A.U. meeting called by Chairman William Tolbert of Liberia was due to convene in Morrovia (4 December). Morocco's King Hassan called for the meetings postponement after accusing Mali of siding with what he called `Morocco's adversaries'.
These local officials were sworn in by King Hassan's emissary to represent Moroccan interests in the area. Dakhla has been administered by Mauritania since 1976 -- but Monsieur Basri made his first visit to the town in August in response, according to Moroccan officials, to appeal from the local population. Monsieur Basri pledged that Morocco will defend Dakhla against any aggression.
As during his first visit, the local people greeted Monsieur Basri with displays of loyalty to King Hassan. The town has a population of about five thousand, but about twenty thousand nomads, live in the surrounding area. According to Mauritanian sources Polisario Front claims to be supported by many sympathisers in the region.
In August King Hassan accepted an oath of allegiance from three hundred local Dakhla leaders flown to Rabat for the ceremony. Moroccan officials said they were handed automatic weapons to symbolize Morocco's determination to arm civilians in the disputed area.
Dakhla is strategically important because of its port as well as its airfield. And a fishing industry which attracts foreign vessels, in this case a Libyan fishing boat, helps the town thrive. Now, the harbour is also used as a base for Moroccan naval craft.
The Monrovia summit was expected to call for an immediate cease fire between Moroccan troops and the Polisario Front and for a referendum on self determination with the help of the United Nations. Meanwhile, the town of Dakhla has a group of officials who have now formally sworn allegiance to the Moroccan crown.