Spain denies endorsing Moroccan rule over W.Sahara

MADRID- Spain rejected Tuesday criticism that it had recognised Morocco's sovereignty over the Western Sahara in its handling of a hunger strike by an independence activist from the disputed territory.
The complaints from several Spanish opposition parties and Saharan independence activists arose from comments by Spain's foreign minister after Morocco allowed Aminatou Haidar to fly back to the territory on December 17.

Aminatou Haidar
Aminatou Haidar
Foreign Minister Miguel Angel Moratinos had said that "until the dispute is settled, and in conformity with the UN position, Spain notes that Moroccan law applies to the Western Sahara".
The comment was seen as amounting to a recognition of Rabat's rule over the phosphate-rich territory that was annexed by Morocco in 1975 following the hasty withdrawal of colonial power Spain.
But Spain's foreign ministry said in a statement Tuesday that "no recognition of Moroccan sovereignty over the Western Sahara had taken place".
"On the contrary, the government had limited itself to noting that Moroccan law applies to the Western Sahara; that is, it simply noted a fact that is, moreover, evident to anyone who closely follows the issue," it said.
Haidar launched her hunger strike on November 16 at Lanzarote airport in Spain's Canary Islands after Morocco denied her entry to her native Western Sahara as she returned from accepting a human rights award in the United States.
Moroccan authorities confiscated her passport after she refused to declare herself as Moroccan on an official form, which they said was a rejection of her Moroccan nationality, and put her on a plane back to Lanzarote.
Morocco eventually yielded to pressure from several foreign governments and let the 42-year-old mother of two return home soon after she was hospitalised after taking ill from the effects of her month-long hunger strike.
Morocco's annexation of the Western Sahara sparked a war with the Algeria-backed Polisario Front movement. The two sides agreed a ceasefire in 1991 but UN-sponsored talks on its future have since made no headway.
Morocco has pledged to grant the territory widespread autonomy but rules out independence.

Wednesday, December 23rd 2009

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