Page last updated at 01:51 GMT, Saturday, 12 December 2009

Spain may return Saharan activist to Morocco

Aminatou Haidar
Aminatou Haidar wants to return to Western Sahara

Spain has not ruled out the option of sending a Western Sahara independence activist on hunger strike in the country back to Moroccan territory.

Aminatou Haidar, 42, has been fasting at Lanzarote Airport for nearly a month after Moroccan authorities expelled her to Spain's Canary Islands.

They also confiscated her passport, saying she had rejected her Moroccan nationality. She denies this.

She has turned down Spain's offer of citizenship or political asylum.

Ms Haidar began her hunger strike days after the Moroccan authorities denied the activist entry to the disputed Western Sahara region.

'Remain alive'

The mother-of-two was returning to Laayoune after accepting a human rights award in the US when she was stopped by the authorities.

Spain's Deputy Prime Minister Maria Teresa de la Vega said the "main objective" was for Ms Haidar to return home and Spanish officials were trying to do all they could to ensure she stayed alive, the AFP news agency reported.

Morocco's Foreign Minister Taieb Fassi Fihr has accused Ms Haidar of trying to "blackmail" the country into allowing her to return and says the strike is a "political ploy" aimed at stirring tensions.

"All Moroccan political parties agreed that we cannot respond to blackmail against the national interests of Morocco," he said.

Demonstrators in Spain
Aminatou Haidar's supporters took part in a silent march in Spain

Ms Haidar has been consuming just sugar water since she began her fast on 14 November.

She said: "What I am demanding is to return to the Western Sahara, with or without a passport, dead or alive."

In Madrid, 1,000 of her supporters took part in a silent protest march to the Spanish foreign ministry.

Hilary Clinton's spokesman said the US Secretary of State was concerned about Ms Haidar's health and wanted a "quick resolution" of the situation.

Ms Haidar's protest at her treatment has won the support of many prominent Spaniards including actor Javier Bardem and film director Pedro Almodovar - giving it a high profile.

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