Polisario chief warns of armed struggle

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Polisario Front chief Mohamed Abdelaziz has warned that his movement could take up arms to seek independence from Morocco if the U.N. fails to resolve the Western Sahara conflict, Algeria’s APS news agency reported Saturday.

“We have believed in the United Nations, but if it fails to organize a referendum on self-determination in Western Sahara to allow the Sahrawi people to recover independence, then we will take up arms to liberate our territory,” APS quoted Abdelaziz as saying.

Morocco annexed the Western Sahara, a former Spanish colony, in 1975, a move never recognized by the international community.

It has proposed broad autonomy under Moroccan sovereignty for the phosphate-rich region.

But this is rejected by the Polisario, which first took up arms to fight for an independent state two years before the Spanish withdrawal, and continued its guerrilla war against Morocco until a U.N.-negotiated ceasefire in 1991.

The U.N. Security Council passed a resolution last month extending the mandate of the U.N. peacekeeping mission for another year but omitting a U.S.-backed plan to task it with human rights monitoring after Morocco lobbied furiously to have the proposal dropped.

Abdelaziz , the self-styled Sahrawi president, was speaking at a news conference on the second day of ceremonies marking the 40th anniversary of the creation of the Algeria-backed Polisario movement.

On Friday he also insisted on the right of Sahrawis to a U.N.-monitored referendum on independence.

“It is time for the international community and Morocco to comply with the resolutions of the United Nations so that the Sahrawi people can achieve their right to self-determination,” APS quoted him as saying.

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