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Polisario Says Rifts Persist With Morocco on Western Sahara

October 15, 1988

UNITED NATIONS (AP) _ Morocco and the independence movement in the Western Sahara are sharply split on whether they can put away their guns and negotiate face-to-face, despite agreeing in principle to peace.

Morocco and the Polisario independence movement remain far apart on most issues, said Bachir M. Sayed, an official of the Marxist-led movement says.

Sayed said Friday that both sides so far have only agreed on the wording of a referendum on the future of the arid northwest African territory, and on how voter eligibility will be decided.

Sayed said issues dividing the two sides include the 185,000 Moroccan soldiers in the phosphate-rich territory; the Moroccan administration; the tens of thousands of Moroccan settlers living in Western Sahara; existing Moroccan law in the area; and ″direct negotiations, still opposed by Morocco.

″Morocco still refuses to shake our hand for peace,″ Sayed said. ″It is proof of their lack of political will.″

A Moroccan official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said: ″They want to renegotiate everything. But we say we did come up with a peace plan that was agreed to by both parties.″

″We are not going to preempt the population by giving anybody legitimacy,″ the official added. ″The people of Western Sahara will decide who shall lead them, and whether these people (Polisario) will lead them.″

Sayed said U.N. Secretary-General Javier Perez de Cuellar will appoint a Uruguayan diplomat, Hector S. Piaolillo, to be his special representative for the region.

Piaolillo is a law professor who has served as a special observer on human rights in Central America, the Uruguayan Mission in New York said.

The United Nations also plans to send about 2,000 peacekeeping troops to the Western Sahara to monitor the referendum.

On Sept. 20, Perez de Cuellar informed the Security Council that Morocco and Polisario ″while making comments and observations, agreed ... to the proposals for a peaceful settlement put forward by the current chairman of the Organization of African Unity and myself.″

Those proposals, he said, included the framework for a cease-fire in the nearly 13-year-old guerrilla war and a referendum to decide whether the territory will become an independent nation or become affiliated with Morocco.

When the Spanish colonial administration withdrew from their former possession in 1975, Moroccan troops occupied the Western Sahara and the Polisario movement began the fight for independence.

At least 10,000 people have died in the war, which has cost Morocco up to $2 million a day to fight.

The desert territory covers about 110,000 square miles, and its population at the last Spanish census in 1974 was 76,000 people.

Among the lingering areas of disagreement, Sayed said, are the presence of Moroccan troops in the territory. Morocco wants all 185,000 soldiers it has in the area to remain, Sayed said.

Sayed said 7,000 Moroccan troops should be allowed to remain in the Western Sahara during the referendum, and should be confined to barracks, like the approximately 7,000 Polisario fighters who will confined to camps under U.N. supervision.

The other Moroccan soldiers should withdraw to their homeland, he contended.

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