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06ALGIERS556 2006-03-27 17:31:00 UNCLASSIFIED Embassy Algiers
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1. In reaction to the visit last week of the Moroccan King
Mohammed VI to the western side of the berm in the Western
Sahara, the GOA and Polisario made public statements.
Abdelaziz Belkhadem, former Foreign Minister and currently
Minister of State and Personal Representative to President
Bouteflika, asserted March 26 in Khartoum (in an interview
that was broadcast by Al-Jazeera television) that the Western
Sahara dispute was an issue of decolonization. Speaking on
the margins of the Arab Summit preparatory ministerial and
reiterating long-held Algerian views, Belkhadem said the
"best way to achieve a settlement of the problem of Western
Sahara is through implementation of international legal
decisions (i.e. Security Council resolutions) establishing
the right of the Sahrawi people to self-determination."

2. Framing his argument on principle and avoiding direct
criticism of Morocco, Belkhadem pointedly added that the
Houston negotiations which took place in 1997 between
representatives of the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic and
of Morocco established "the right of the Sahrawi people to
self-determination." He noted that those negotiations
established a benchmark for United Nations decisions
concerning Western Sahara and reminded that the issue of the
Western Sahara appeared every year on the agenda of the
Fourth UN Commission as a decolonization issue.




3. In remarks widely reported in the Algerian press, Hritani
Lahcene, counselor to Polisario leader Muhammad Abdelaziz,
adopted a shriller tone, calling the King's visit "a media
circus" in violation of international law. "The King of
Morocco," he said, "speaks of autonomy (for the Western
Sahara) as the only solution. Why, then, does he stubbornly
reject the Baker Plan, which calls for a 4-5 year period of
autonomy followed by a referendum on self-determination?"
Characterizing the international support for the Polisario
position as favorable, Lahcene said the Polisario was
"confident" in its position that "the Baker Plan currently
represents the only international consensus on resolving the
conflict." Another Polisario spokesman, Khalil Sidi
Muhammad, separately accused Morocco of liberating only 30
Sahrawi prisoners, leaving 37 still behind bars.