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06RABAT326 2006-02-24 14:53:00 SECRET Embassy Rabat
Cable title:  

WESTERN SAHARA: MOROCCO SEEKS US INTERVENTION TO

Tags:   AG KPKO MO PARM PBTS PINR PREL 
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1. (C) SUMMARY: The GOM has asked at the highest levels
that the U.S. demarche Algeria to help prevent a march of
Sahrawi and European civilians across the berm in the Western
Sahara, and the heavily land-mined area adjacent to the berm,
reportedly planned by the Polisario to occur in conjunction
with Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic thirtieth anniversary
celebrations on Monday, February 27. FM Benaissa told the
Ambassador February 24 that Moroccan forces would resist any
attempt to cross the berm. Separately, Force Armee Royal
(FAR) Inspector General Bennani told MINURSO Force Commander
General Mosgaard that the FAR would shoot anyone attempting
to cross the berm, and that Morocco would regard any
Polisario provocation as an act of war. MINURSO has relayed
Moroccan concerns to the Polisario, and is skeptical of
Polisario,s capacity to mount a significant march; moreover,
the Polisario has given MINURSO oral assurances they will not
stage provocative events and will not, above all, march to
the berm. Similar marches on previous anniversaries have
turned back short of the berm. Nevertheless, Sahrawis living
east of the berm are reportedly moving out of the area,
fearful of a possible military conflict. Ambassador plans to
call FM Benaissa to relay points being coordinated with
Department concerning the need for all sides to exercise
restraint. Embassy Rabat has also briefed Embassy Algiers on
the situation. END SUMMARY.



2. (C) Foreign Minister Benaissa, traveling in Gabon with
King Mohammed VI, telephoned Ambassador Riley Friday,
February 24, at the King,s request. He said that there are
reports that the Polisario, in conjunction with festivities
marking the 30th anniversary of the founding of the Sahrawi
Arab Democratic Republic (SADR) on Monday, February 27, plans
to hold a march on the berm of up to 4,000 young people,
including Europeans. Benaissa said that the GOM had
information that soldiers dressed as civilians would be among
the marchers. He said that the demonstrators intended to
march across the berm, through an area that is heavily
land-mined. Benaissa said that Moroccan soldiers would
resist this effort, and requested that the U.S. ask the
Algerian government to dissuade the Polisario from holding
the march.



3. (C) MINURSO officials February 24 expressed skepticism
that the Polisario had the capability to mount any type of
large-scale demonstrations, due in part to destruction
resulting from recent extensive flooding in the Tindouf area.
MINURSO Poloff Alexandyr Sporys told Polcouns February 24
that MINURSO had received oral assurances from the Polisario
that there will be no provocative demonstrations and no/no
attempt to move toward the berm. MINURSO Force Commander
Mosgaard met with Force Armee Royale (FAR) Inspector General
Bennani February 23 in Agadir, and relayed to Bennani the
Polisario,s oral assurances that they would not exploit the
February 27 anniversary celebrations.



4. (C) General Bennani, however, had heard reports to the
contrary and, according to MINURSO officials, expressed
unease with the Polisario,s preparations for the
anniversary. Bennani told Mosgaard that Morocco would view
deliberate Polisario provocation or effort to cross the berm
as an act of war, and would shoot any demonstrators who climb
the berm. Bennani urged Mosgaard to intervene to prevent any
march from occurring. Mosgaard told Bennani that MINURSO has
no mandate to prevent civilians from crossing the berm.
Moreover, according to MINURSO, demonstrations by civilians
are not a violation of the military agreements.



5. (C) MINURSO officials viewed Bennani,s statement as
characteristic of Moroccan statements every year related to
the Polisario anniversary. Mosgaard said that he had met
with representatives of Polisario President Abdelaziz,s
office February 22 and relayed Morocco,s nervousness over
the event, and asked the Polisario to try to defuse the
situation. Mosgaard said he received assurances the
Polisario would do so. Mosgaard plans to travel to Tifariti
and to Rabouni camp February 25 to monitor preparations for
the events. (Rabouni camp is located on the eastern side of

the berm in Algeria. Tifariti is east of the berm but within
the disputed territory of the Western Sahara.) Mosgaard
plans to reiterate to Polisario officials Moroccan
nervousness about the Polisario preparations, and remind the
Polisario of the importance of adhering to its oral
assurances that there will be no provocative demonstrations
and no move toward the berm.



6. (SBU) According to an "official" guide to the SADR events
provided by the Polisario to MINURSO, the expected number of
participants attending the festivities marking the 30th
anniversary of the "Saharan Arab Democratic Republic" is 784.
Of these, 200 will also participate in the Sahara Marathon
to take place on 28 February. The marathon runners will be
accommodated in Camp Smara and the remaining 584 in Camp
Laayoune (which is the least affected by the floods).
"Regional" celebrations will be held as follows: 23
February, Camp Awsard; 24 February, Friday Holiday; 25
February, Camp Laayoune; 26 February, Camp Smara; 27
February, Tifariti. The major (civilian) event will be on 25
February in Camp Laayoune, and will include civilian parades
by children and institutions; folklore; an international
conference of solidarity (the main event); and a cultural
evening. From Camp Laayoune, participants will move to
Tifariti where on 27 February a military parade will be held
, as well as a camel parade, traditional folklore, and then
followed by a lunch hosted by Polisario leader Mohammed
Abdelaziz. A camel race and exhibitions of traditional
culture will also take place. The destruction of landmines
(by NGO Geneva Call) will take place on 28 February in the
morning.



7. (C) General Mosgaard advised USDAO February 24 that
previous estimates of crowd size for the Tifariti event of up
to 30-40 thousand (reftel) have been revised because of the
poor condition of roads between Tindouf and Tifariti.
Mosgaard said there would still be a military parade in
Tifariti, but no heavy equipment such as tanks would be
involved. Mosgaard said that the Polisario would detonate
stockpiles of landmines in Tifariti during the Feb. 27 event,
but that MINURSO would be on hand to observe. MINURSO
reports that some local Sahrawi are moving out of the area
east of the berm, in fear of a Moroccan attack on Tifariti.



8. (C) MINURSO also reported that both Morocco and the
Polisario had informed MINURSO separately of plans to hold
live ammunition exercises on their respective sides of the
berm during the weekend, in the framework of pre-planned
exercises and in accordance with requirements of the military
agreements. According to MINURSO, the FAR currently has
three battalion level military exercises occurring just
outside the security zone on the west side of the berm.



9. (S) Directorate General for Studies and Documentation
(DGED - Morocco,s external intelligence service) officials
contacted by SIMO February 24 confirmed GOM understanding
that SADR anniversary celebrations on Monday, February 27
will include political meetings in Tindouf and a military
parade in Tifariti. Past practice is to organize media
events, including marches on the berm, according to DGED.
The difference this year is the number that the Polisario
hopes to mobilize. In previous years groups have marched
toward the berm but have turned back. The GOM hopes that
will happen again this year, but given the fact that this is
the 30th anniversary, the Moroccans are concerned that the
group may not turn back, with potentially grave consequences
because of mine fields east of the berm and the determination
of the Moroccan government and military to resist any berm
crossing. The DGED alleged that the Polisario has attempted
to involve European (particularly Spanish) sympathizers in
the march.



10. (C) According to the DGED, the Moroccan government has
also complained to MINURSO about the performance of the
current MINURSO force commander, claiming that he is too
tolerant of Polisario violations of military agreements
related to the cease fire.



11. (SBU) Moroccan Arabic-language daily Al Hadath
al-Maghrebiya reported February 24 that a group of
pro-Moroccan Sahrawis planned to stage a

counter-demonstration over the weekend of February 25, in the
vicinity of Smara and the berm. MINURSO officials noted it
would be virtually impossible to move toward the berm without
GOM acquiescence, as there were numerous military checkpoints
along the route. Smara is close to the berm, requiring only
about 20 minutes, drive time. The article also noted that
new Moroccan Minister of Interior Chakib Benmoussa visited
Laayoune February 23 to meet with tribal leaders.
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Riley