Western Sahara Shifts toward Solution

By Howard LaFranchi, writer of The Christian Science Monitor | The Christian Science Monitor, May 22, 1991 | Go to article overview
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Western Sahara Shifts toward Solution


Howard LaFranchi, writer of The Christian Science Monitor, The Christian Science Monitor


UNDERPINNING the United Nations referendum that will decide the status of the Western Sahara early next year is a favorable regional and international context.

If the UN is able to file away its Western Sahara dossier in January 1992, it will be because at least two key factors came together to allow a peaceful solution to the 15-year conflict.

First, micro-revolutionary movements no longer have the support they once enjoyed from such quarters as the formerly communist Eastern Europe. Second, creation of the United Maghreb Union in 1989 and the North African desire to create an economic community along the Mediterranean's southern shore meant that Morocco and Algeria had to put behind them a source of mutual recrimination.

"The simple fact is that the future of Morocco passes through Algeria, and the future of Algeria passes by way of Morocco," says Habib el-Malki, an socialist opposition leader in Morocco. "Neither was going to realize its potential with the Western Sahara holding up cooperation."

Since 1975, when Spain relinquished its hold on its colony, Morocco has been at war with the Polisario Front over possession of the sparsely populated Western Sahara. For more than a decade Algeria supported the Polisario's independence drive, allowing countries like the former East Germany to ship arms to the rebels through its ports and over its territory.

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