INTRODUCTION: The rebel Sahara Arab Republic - the Polisario Front Guerrilla enclave in the western Sahara - the has announced the deaths of nearly 800 Moroccans Mauritanian troops in January, in continued fighting for control of the area.
SV: Polisario Front Sahara Arab Republic Information Minister Salem Ould Salek addressing newsmen. (in French)
SV PAN: newsmen taking notes.
SV: Salek continues speech and sorts through documents.
CU: documents on table, ZOOM BACK TO Salek displaying them to newsmen.
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Background: INTRODUCTION: The rebel Sahara Arab Republic - the Polisario Front Guerrilla enclave in the western Sahara - the has announced the deaths of nearly 800 Moroccans Mauritanian troops in January, in continued fighting for control of the area. The announcement was made at a news conference on Monday (31 January) in Algiers. Algeria backs the Polisario Front in its claims on the former Spanish Sahara.
SYNOPSIS: The Sahara Republic's Information Minister's Mohammed Ould Salek, said the number of deaths was a record for any one month. He did not mention how many members of the Polisario Front were killed in the same period. M. Salek said 569 of the Moroccans and Mauritians were killed during a 17-day battle in the Metlani area of the western Sahara. Another 103 Moroccans died in fighting in Akhfennir in southern Morocco, he said.
The nationalist guerrillas of the Polisario Front, backed by Algeria have been waging war against Morocco and Mauritania since February last year, when Spain divided its former colony between the two. The Polisario Front, which had previously fought the Spanish, is continuing it's struggle for the complete independence of the phosphate-rich territory. At the same time Spain handed the area to its new Moroccan and Mauritanian leaders, the Polisario declared of the Saharan Democratic Arab Republic. The Front has vowed to prevent the disappearance of the western Sahara from the map. It claims to control the biggest part of the area, saying it's pushed back Moroccan and Mauritanian forces to the areas surrounding a few towns.
During the conference, M. Salek displayed the identity cards of several Moroccans killed at Akhfennir. He said the majority of African countries were in favour of a meeting of the Organisation of African Unity (OAU) to discuss the Saharan problems, but Morocco was stalling over the issue. In less than a year, the conflict has produced thousands of refugees. According to the Polisario Front, there are now 105,000 of them in Algeria
and the "liberated zones" of the western Sahara.