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Identifier
Created
Classification
Origin
05ALGIERS1768
2005-08-22 05:55:00
CONFIDENTIAL
Embassy Algiers
Cable title:  

SENATOR LUGAR'S MEETING WITH POLISARIO LEADER

Tags:   PREL  PHUM  PBTS  WI  AG  MO 
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This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.
						C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 ALGIERS 001768 

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: DECL: 08/20/2015
TAGS: PREL PHUM PBTS WI AG MO
SUBJECT: SENATOR LUGAR'S MEETING WITH POLISARIO LEADER
ABDELAZIZ

REF: ALGIERS 1753

Classified By: Ambassador Richard W. Erdman,
for reasons 1.4 (b) and (d)



1. (C) Summary: In an August 18 meeting with Senator Lugar,
Polisario leader Abdelaziz thanked him, the U.S., and
President Bush for their help in releasing to the
International Red Cross the final 404 Polisario-held
prisoners scheduled to return to their families in Morocco.
Abdelaziz hoped the U.S. would now contribute to ending the
suffering of the Sahrawi people. Abdelaziz blamed Morocco
for the failure of the Baker Plan, noting that the Sahrawis
would abide by the results of a vote to determine the future
status of the Western Sahara and, if the voters chose
independence, would be a good neighbor to Morocco. The
Sahrawis want to enjoy the same rights and freedoms as
Americans. Abdelaziz asked for independent, international
observers to verify his claims that Morocco pursues an
"oppressive and violent" campaign against Sahrawis resident
in areas of the Western Sahara under Moroccan control. For
his part, Senator Lugar said he and President Bush
appreciated the humanitarian step that was being taken to
release the remaining prisoners. He hoped it would encourage
others, alleviate tensions, and set an example elsewhere in
the world. End Summary.

APPRECIATION FOR U.S. HELP


--------------------------





2. (C) During the Tindouf portion of his visit to Algeria
August 18, Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman
Richard Lugar, accompanied by his Chief of Staff and PolEc
Chief, met with Polisario leader Abdelaziz in his office
shortly after Abdelaziz announced the release of all Moroccan
prisoners held by the Polisario. Abdelaziz opened the
meeting by thanking Senator Lugar for his visit and
expressing his regret that Lugar's schedule did not allow him
more time to familiarize himself with Sahrawi issues and
visit the camps of Sahrawi refugees. Abdelaziz thanked Lugar
for his efforts and asked that he convey to President Bush,
who had asked Lugar to undertake this presidential mission,
his gratitude for the President Bush's efforts and those of
the U.S. in reaching agreement to hand over to the
International Red Cross the final group of Polisario-held
prisoners for the trip home to their families in Morocco.



3. (C) Abdelaziz noted that the Polisario once held 2,255
Moroccan prisoners, and on the occasion of Senator Lugar's
visit was releasing the remaining 404 still in custody.
Abdelaziz remarked that, "In recognition of humanitarian
interests, I express my gratitude to the U.S. Government.
This is not the first prisoner release with the help of the
U.S.," but it will be the last. Abdelaziz said the prisoners
were but one aspect of Sahrawi suffering since the beginning
of the conflict. The Polisario hoped this latest U.S.

mediation would help to put to an end the suffering of the
Sahrawi people. The Sahrawi people had two basic concerns,
explained Abdelaziz, the refusal of the Moroccan Government
to abide by international law and regulations, including
those of the United Nations, and a second humanitarian
concern.

MOROCCO TO BLAME FOR THE FAILURE OF THE BAKER PLAN


--------------------------



--------------------------





4. (C) It was the policy of the Moroccan Government that led
to the failure of the seven-year effort by James Baker to
bring the long-standing conflict to an end, stressed
Abdelaziz. The Sahrawi people asked for respect and their
right to self-determination. They were not and are not
asking for the impossible. The Polisario sought a democratic
solution and asked that the UN be allowed to organize a
referendum on the future status of the Western Sahara. The
Polisario, declared Abdelaziz, "shall respect the outcome of
the referendum, whatever that outcome may be. If the Sahrawi
people decide to be free, as the American people decided to
be free, Morocco should respect that decision."

SAHRAWIS WANT TO FOLLOW THE U.S. EXAMPLE


--------------------------





5. (C) Abdelaziz pledged that the Sahrawi people, should
they become independent, would be good neighbors to Morocco
and would not harm or be a threat to the stability of the
Kingdom. The Sahrawis had made a choice to pursue what they
have prepared for themselves over the last 30 years: a
democratic country based on principles and values of the
United States and its Constitution. Abdelaziz said the
Sahrawis, despite living in an arid, Arab and Muslim region
sought the same rights as Americans: freedom of expression,
faith, and religion. The Sahrawis, said Abdelaziz, will
protect themselves from extremist ideas. He hoped the U.S.
would promote a quick solution to these issues by pressuring
Morocco to agree to the holding of a referendum.

MOROCCO NEEDS TO MAKE GESTURES OF ITS OWN


--------------------------





6. (C) On the second and humanitarian concern of the
Sahrawis, Abdelaziz made reference to an "oppressive,
violent" campaign by Morocco against Sahrawis resident in
Moroccan-held areas of the Western Sahara. Sahrawis,
complained Abdelaziz, had been beaten while exercising their
freedom of expression. Sahrawi prisoners were on a hunger
strike in Moroccan jails. These prisoners' only crime was to
demonstrate in the streets against Moroccan suppression of
their rights. Some prisoners had been tortured and injured.
Abdelaziz requested that independent, international observers
be permitted to enter these areas in order to assess
conditions.



7. (C) The Sahrawi people, continued Abdelaziz, had no
indication of the whereabouts of 150 Polisario prisoners of
war held by Morocco. There was no information on them at
all. Five hundred Sahrawi citizens had disappeared in
Morocco, asserted the Polisario leader. "We want to know
what happened to them. We are families of prisoners,
detained and disappeared."

LUGAR APPRECIATES HUMANITARIAN GESTURE; PLEDGES TO HELP


--------------------------



--------------------------





8. (C) Senator Lugar thanked Abdelaziz for sharing his
views. The Senator expressed appreciation for his
hospitality and for his remarks earlier in the day upon the
release of the final group of prisoners (copy of speech faxed
to NEA/MAG and Embassy Rabat). Lugar explained that he was
meeting with him, the Algerian President, and the King of
Morocco because President Bush was very interested in these
issues and had asked Lugar to come to the region. Referring
to the U.S. President, Lugar said, "He and I appreciate the
humanitarian gesture so that the released prisoners can
return to their families."



9. (C) There was important work to be done, emphasized the
Senator, and our emphasis would be on getting the parties
promptly to return to the UN and observance of international
law. Lugar said he would make formal remarks at the Tindouf
airport following his meeting with Abdelaziz but noted that
the "humanitarian work you undertook today will encourage
others and will alleviate tensions and set an example
elsewhere in the world. Other countries must understand and
seize the importance of the ideas you discussed today. In my
modest way, I will be of help."



10. (U) Senator Lugar did not have an opportunity to clear
this message.



11. (U) Tripoli minimize considered.

ERDMAN