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Sunday, 24 June, 2001, 22:59 GMT 23:59 UK
Maghreb media debate Western Sahara plan
Western Sahara
Disputed territory for 26 years
The new United Nations plan for Western Sahara has been broadly welcomed in the Moroccan press but attacked as a "betrayal" and a threat to regional stability by the Algerian media.

The plan, presented to the UN Security Council on Friday, calls on the Polisario Front, which represents the indigenous Saharawi people, to put on hold a long-awaited referendum on independence from Morocco in return for substantial autonomy.

The Moroccan Government has accepted the proposal, while the Algerian-backed Polisario has condemned it as "biased towards Morocco".


The proposal allows Moroccans and Algerians to move forward with honour beyond a pointless conflict, in spite of their reservations

L'Opinion newspaper
L'Opinion, the French-language organ of Morocco's Istiqlal Party, hailed the plan, saying it allowed "Moroccans and Algerians to move forward with honour beyond a pointless conflict, in spite of their reservations".

Al Alam, the party's Arabic-language organ, said that Saharan autonomy within the framework of Moroccan sovereignty is "the first and last solution to emerge from the impasse".

It also noted that, in the UN report, "Algeria was, for the first time, named as being a party to a solution to the conflict in Western Sahara contrary to what Algerian propaganda always maintained, namely that this conflict concerned Morocco and the Polisario Front alone".

The Moroccan Le Matin du Sahara et du Maghreb newspaper wondered whether "the evolutionary proposals made by the UN secretary-general and his personal envoy will be heard by Algiers, which must make an honourable exit".

"Mr Kofi Annan drew the lessons from the obstacles met in the implementation of the settlement plan and, mainly, from the chronic incapacity on the part of Algeria and the Polisario to work for legality and with openness," it said.


Mr Annan is violating the basic principles of the organisation he heads

El Watan newspaper
In Algeria, the independent newspaper El Watan was damning in its assessment of the UN proposal.

In an editorial headlined "Betrayal", it accused Mr Annan of "violating the basic principles of the organisation he heads", adding that he is "challenging all the work done so far by the Organisation of African Unity and the UN on the Moroccan-Saharawi conflict".

Mr Annan, the paper said, was "purely and simply recommending that the international community end its support for the organisation of the referendum on self-determination for the Saharawi people and adopt a 'third way', namely the colonialist plan of the regime in Rabat".

"By adopting the Moroccan views Mr Annan becomes an accomplice of Morocco's expansionist policy, working for injustice and against peace. Furthermore, he risks provoking a regional conflict since the legalisation of the Moroccan occupation can only result in a destabilisation of the whole Maghreb region."

UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan
Annan's proposal upsets Polisario and Algeria
Algerian TV described the plan as "a dangerous turning point in the history of the Sahara issue".

"It is the political solution which consecrates Morocco's sovereignty over Western Sahara," it said.

A similar point was made by Western Sahara Campaign UK, which accused Mr Annan's envoy for the Western Sahara, James Baker, of "jumping into bed with Morocco to end the referendum".

"In essence, the UN is backing a process which ensures that occupying Moroccan troops can quietly out-vote the indigenous people of Western Sahara," it said on the Polisario website.

"The move represents the personal defeat of James Baker and the abject failure of the United Nations to implement its own agreements."

BBC Monitoring, based in Caversham in southern England, selects and translates information from radio, television, press, news agencies and the Internet from 150 countries in more than 70 languages.

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