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Thursday, 29 June, 2000, 13:55 GMT 14:55 UK
No progress at Western Sahara talks
Polisario Front guerillas
Saharawi guerrillas are already training for a return to war
Talks organised by the United Nations to try to break the deadlock over a referendum on the disputed territory of Western Sahara have ended with no sign of progress.

The fact is, it is feasible to implement the peace plan

Polisario Front representative
A representative of the Polisario Front, which has been campaigning for the independent of the disputed territory annexed by Morocco 25 years ago, said there were detailed discussions but "no substantial progress".

"We discussed issues that are hampering the peace plan, but we did not advance on the heart of the matter," said Brahim Ghali Moustapha.

Morocco was represented by Foreign Minister Mohamed Benaissa, who refused to comment.

Alternative plan

We would never accept a third or a fourth solution instead of the UN peace plan

Polisario Front
The participants, meeting under the chairmanship of the UN special envoy, James Baker, did not discuss any possible alternatives to the proposed referendum.

The referendum, which has been repeatedly postponed because of disputes over voter eligibility, is to decide whether the former Spanish colony should become incorporated into Morocco or become independent.

"We would never accept a third or a fourth solution instead of the UN peace plan. We will only support the implementation of the peace plan; we will categorically reject any other proposal," said Sadik Malainine, an official of the Polisario Front, which has been fighting Morocco for the independence of the Western Sahara.

"The fact is, it is feasible to implement the peace plan. The problem lies in the unwillingness of the other party (Morocco) to make an effort in order to surmount the obstacles which it had created before the peace plan," he added.

The delegates agreed however to meet again in July and August to discuss technical issues and Mr Baker expected to call another top-level meeting in September.

Talks cut short

The talks in London should have taken two days but ended after the first day.

The meeting was the second in less than two months.

It involved delegations from Morocco and the Polisario Front, as well as Algeria - which supports Polisario - and Mauritania.

A previous round of talks in London in May ended in failure with the Polisario Front delegation accusing Morocco of creating obstacles to holding a referendum originally scheduled for 1992 but repeatedly delayed.

"As far as I am concerned, I do not see this meeting as failure like the meeting of last May. But rather a step towards the implementation of the settlement plan," said the Polisario Front representative in London, Brahim Moctar.

Morocco annexed the territory in 1976 after Spain withdrew, prompting the Polisario Front to launch a 15-year guerrilla war for independence.

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