Western Sahara
Saharawis invite Spain to take responsibility

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afrol News, 3 June - A high POLISARIO official today told afrol News that Spain should be considered the real administering power of the Western Sahara territory. He further showed great understanding of Spain's difficulties in promoting the interests of its former colony.

POLISARIO's Coordinator to the UN Mission for a Referendum in Western Sahara (MINURSO), Emhammed Khadad, on a visit to Oslo (Norway), today commented on the legal opinion presented by UN Legal Counsel, Hans Corell, earlier this year. Corell had deemed a Moroccan licence to explore oil offshore Western Sahara as illegal, as Morocco was "not listed as the administering Power of the territory in the United Nations list of Non-Self-Governing Territories". 

Khadad told afrol News the question on the legal situation of the territory was complex. Corell's "important legal opinion" had however established that the Madrid Agreement - which ceased the territory from Spain to Morocco and Mauritania in 1975 - "is not legal".

Asked who, then, was the real administering power of Western Sahara, Khadad said that according to this conclusion, "Spain is the administering power, or at least, Western Sahara is a responsibility of Spain." 

- You can read the legal opinion as an appeal to Spain to resume its responsibilities, Khadad added. In any case, it was obvious that Morocco did not qualify as the territory's administering power. This remained clear from Corell's conclusions and from that fact that Morocco did not provide annual reports to the UN about the developments in Western Sahara; a clear responsibility of an administering power of a Non-Self-Governing Territory, Khadad noted.

While Khadad lamented that Spain does not take such an active role on Western Sahara's independence as did Portugal on Eastern Timor's independence, he was however not willing to criticise Spain for its failure to take responsibility "after the crime of 1975," when it abandoned its colony without letting the Saharawis decide on their own. 

- It was easier for Portugal, Khadad admits, as Indonesia is further away and less involved in Portuguese and European affairs than is Morocco. However, "over the last ten months, Spain has been very clear" in support of Saharawi autodetermination and lobbied against the US proposal of making Western Sahara an autonomous province in Morocco. 

Spain has to consider that Morocco is only 12 kilometres away; he excused the former colonial power. Khadad mentioned the problems of the two Spanish towns Ceuta and Melilla on Morocco's northern coast and the need to cooperate with Morocco over illegal immigration and smuggling of narcotics. The economic issue of Spanish fisheries in Moroccan waters naturally also were of importance.

- While Portugal had an easy task in making the European Union support its Eastern Timor campaign, Khadad observed, Spain could not count on the same support. France, which supports Morocco "economically, military and diplomatically" was effectively blocking any common EU policy in support of Western Sahara, which Spain had tried to promote. In this context, Spain was now taking its responsibilities; Khadad pointed out, although more could be done.

Sources: Based on Emhammed Khadad and afrol archives.

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