Tension in the former Spanish Sahara increased on Monday (7 November) when Algeria warned Morocco that any violation of its frontiers would be considered a declaration of war, and would meet with "an appropriate response".
Tension in the former Spanish Sahara increased on Monday (7 November) when Algeria warned Morocco that any violation of its frontiers would be considered a declaration of war, and would meet with "an appropriate response". The warning related to a declaration by Morocco's King Hassan That Moroccan troops would in future resort to the "right of pursuit" if its borders were crossed by Algerian-backed Polisario Front guerrillas.
SYNOPSIS: King Hassan made this declaration in an address broadcast from Rabat on Sunday (6 November).
He said if Morocco was forced to defend its frontiers it would have to resort to the right of pursuit each time its borders were violated. This warning to Algeria, which supports Polisario forces operating from its territory, represented a hardening of the attitude of Morocco. So far it has refrained from pursuing the Saharan guerrillas back into Algeria after raids. The Polisario Front has been waging a desert war against Morocco and Mauritania since Spain ceded the mineral-rich Western Sahara to those countries in 1976. The Polisario wants independence for the sparsely-populated territory.
King Hassan said that in the past three weeks the Polisario has used heavy cannon and armoured vehicles in forays into the Western Sahara from bases in Algeria. He said these new weapons could not have been acquired by the Polisario alone. King Hassan claimed that regular Algerian army units had periodically violated the Moroccan border, and said that in future his army would "not hesitate to violate" the Algerian frontier if such incursions were repeated.
Earlier on the day of King Hassan's broadcast there had been public celebrations in Morocco. They marked the second anniversary of the "Green March" in which 350,000 unarmed Moroccans had marched into Western Sahara when it was still occupied by Spain. The "Green March" led to the agreement which gave the territory to Morocco and Mauritania. But, even as King Hassan spoke, the Polisario staged another attack, this time on a Mauritanian garrison. And the Algerian newspaper, El Chaab, has since called King Hassan's threat a new step "towards an explosion" in the Western Sahara.