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Morocco warns OAU not to admit disputed new Sahrawi Republic

Morocco is threatening to pull out of the Organization of African Unity (OAU) , if the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic is admitted. Such a move could deal a lethal blow to the 50-member OAU, Moroccan officials claim.

The Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic (SADR) represents the community of Polisario Front guerrillas and refugees, based in Algeria, who have been attempting since 1975 to wrest the former Western Sahara from Moroccan control and establish its independence. At the OAU summit meeting that commences July 1 in Freetown, Sierra Leone, the admission of SADR will be proposed by its backers.

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Already 23 of the OAU member states have recognized the SADR as a state, and thus only three more favorable votes would be required to admit the new member by a simple majority.

Morocco contends, however, that the stipulations of the OAU charter, like those of the United Nations, apply only to "sovereign and independent states."

"It is a question of admitting who or what," said Muhammad Boucetta, Morocco's foreign minister, in an interview before leaving for Freetown, June 19 .

An independent and sovereign state requires "the existence of a territory, a homogenous people, and an effective government," he pointed out. United Nations studies have confirmed that the Saharan republic has none of these, he stated.

Moroccans maintain that the matter should be taken up at an extraordinary summit meeting, which would require a two-thirds majority vote. In their view, they are opposing manipulation of the OAU by Algeria and Libya, who have lobbied and handed out financial favors to less well-to-do African states.

Several months ago, King Hassan announced that if SADR is admitted to the OAU , thus violating its charter, Morocco willwithdraw from the organization. TheO OAU will be headed toward disintegration, Moroccans predict. Especially if a number of member countries follow suit.

In recent months, moroccans officials have paid numerous visits to governments throughout Africa in an effort to put across their point of view that the Western Sahara for centuries has been an integral part of Morocco and was only separated from Morocco by being occupied by a different colonial power.

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Representatives of the people of Western Sahara swore allegiance to the Moroccan King in March and their representatives sit in the Moroccan parliament. According to Moroccans, the tension in the Sahara has been artificially created by the incursion of mercenaries from Algeria, trained and led by Algerians and Libyans.

But so far the only nation to have rescinded its recognition of the Saharan republic is Equatorial Guinea, whose President, Teodoro Obiang, nullified the decision for recognition taken by his predecessor in office. And it is felt that if the King fails to attend this meeting as he has other recent summits, the Moroccan side may continue to lose ground.

Hopes for a negotiated settlement to the Saharan guerrilla war fluttered last week after Saudi Crown Prince Fahd met with President Chadli Benjedid in Algeria and then King Hassan II in Rabat. However, the prince left Rabat stating that he could not intervene as mediator. He was optimistic that the two heads of state would get together to find a peaceful solution to the stagnating conflict.

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