• Short Summary

    The Spanish Government has officially handed over control of the Western Sahara to Morocco and Mauritania.

  • Description

    The Spanish Government has officially handed over control of the Western Sahara to Morocco and Mauritania.

    The handing over ceremony took place at El Aiun, the capital of the Western Sahara, on Saturday (28 February).

    The Spanish forces in the region pulled out two days before the handing over ceremony, ending nearly a century of Spanish colonial rule.

    An official Spanish communique said Spain has ended its presence in the territory and disclaimed "all responsibility in relation to the administration of the Sahara".

    The handing over ceremony was conducted by the former Spanish Governor of the territory, Mr. Rafael Valdez, and representatives of the Moroccan and Mauritanian governments, including the Moroccan Secretary of State for the Interior, Mr. Driss Basri.

    There appeared to be a distinct lack of interest in the handing over ceremony which was watched by only a small group of soldiers and local residents.

    The dividing of control of the territory between the governments of Morocco and Mauritania has been opposed by algeria and the Saharan Polisario Independence Movement, both of whom support home rule for the people of the territory.

    The Polisario declared the territory the "Saharan Democratic Republic" in a ceremony in a small oasis, allegedly within the Western Sahara, on Friday (27 February). The leaders of the organisation declared their aim to fight what they termed "the invaders of the Saharan people".

    Already there have been reports of clashes between the Algerian backed Polisario guerrillas and Moroccan and Moroccan and Mauritanian forces.

    A Ministerial Council meeting of the Organisation of African Unity (OAU) passed a motion saying that it was the sovereign right of each member state to recognise the government of the Western Sahara. The motion means that each individual member of the OAU will be able to decide whether it will recognise the Polisario Front as the legitimate government of the disputed territory.

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    Reuters - Including Visnews
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