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06RABAT355 2006-02-28 13:00:00 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Rabat
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1. (C) MINURSO Political Officer Alexandr Sporys telephoned
Polcouns at 8 pm local time February 27 to brief on the day's
activities in Tifariti. Sporys said MINURSO peacekeepers
based in Tifariti had observed part of the day's festivities
in keeping with MINURSO's mandate. MINURSO estimated that
2500 Polisario soldiers participated in military parades
during the day, but there was no march toward the berm and
there were no provocative demonstrations staged. Sporys said
MINURSO had no reports of counter- demonstrations on the
Moroccan side of the berm, and none have been reported in the
Moroccan press as of February 28. Sporys added that other
Polisario troops were deployed on high ground around Tifariti
in the event of a Moroccan attack.

2. (C) Sporys explained that while the events were peaceful,
the accumulation of forces nevertheless constituted a
violation of military agreement number one, and the incident
would therefore be reported to both sides and included in the
Secretary General's report on the Western Sahara due in

April. Sporys noted as an aside that MINURSO had begun
drafting the report in Laayoune in light of an internal
deadline of March 17 to get the report to New York.

3. (C) Sporys continued that the focus of February 28 was
mine-destruction. According to its website, the Polisario
claims to have destroyed several thousand mines on February
28, and the Swiss-based NGO Geneva Call called on the GOM to
undertake similar action.

4. (C) Sporys noted that in light of the events in Tifariti,
MINURSO peacekeepers in Tifariti and Bir Lahlou were under a
special monitoring order that would remain in effect until
March 2, when MINURSO believed the anniversary events would
be fully concluded. That said Sporys indicated that most
events were disbanding as of the evening of February 27.

5. (C) In contact with DAO late February 27, MINURSO Force
Commander Mosgaard reported that according to military
agreement number one there should be no concentration of
forces even in the area of limited restriction, i.e. the area
beyond the thirty kilometer range from the berm (the
so-called no-man's land). He stressed that while the
military accumulation did constitute a violation, the
Polisario did not display any offensive capabilities beyond
some personal weapons and some 150 camels, which the Moroccan
military was informed about. Echoing Sporys's comments, he
said there were some forty BMPs (armored personnel carriers)
and ZSUs (anti-aircraft guns) placed in defensive positions
in the hills around Tifariti to counter a possible Moroccan
air attack. He admitted that civilians on both sides of the
berm were nervous about the possibility of a military
confrontation. He reiterated to DAO that both Moroccan FAR
General Bennani and Polisario President Abdulaziz, in his
meetings with them, had agreed to keep things calm. Mosgaard
said he hoped he had convinced the Polisario to abstain from
demonstrations toward the berm in the future as well but
acknowledged only time will tell.
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