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Reuters AlertNet 8/17/07

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Western Sahara Debated Without Plug Being Pulled, Taking Note of Bolton

Byline: Matthew Russell Lee of Inner City Press at the UN: News Analysis

UNITED NATIONS, October 31 -- On the long-standing issue of Western Sahara, the Security Council on Wednesday passed another resolution. To most it appeared routine, extending the UN peacekeeping mission there for six months, and tracking the language of previous Resolution 1754. But in a stakeout interview after the 15-0 vote, Inner City Press asked South African Ambassador Dumisani Kumalo about sources' reports that the U.S. has shifted from perceived evenhandedness between Morocco and the Western Saharans and Polisario Front to openly siding with Morocco. Amb. Kumalo said there was "an attempt to get out of balance" which was largely fought back. He said he disfavors the Council endorsing or choosing one side. Video here, from Minute 1:35.

            A representative of Polisario, Mhmed Khadad, stepped to the microphone. Since the last time Polisario appeared the video turned off, Inner City Press quickly asked two questions, about the resolution calling the Moroccan proposal "serious and credible" but merely "taking note" of Polisario's proposal, and about what Amb. Kumalo called the Council's unique unwillingness to take note of the Secretariat's human rights reports on the matter. Video here, from Minute 3:53. Mhmed Khadad called the latter a "double standard," and managed to speak without the plug being pulled. Bravo!

In Western Sahara with... Boutros Boutros-Ghali, 1994, plus ca change

            Speaking of taking note, former U.S. Ambassador John Bolton's book "Surrender Is Not An Option" devotes three pages to Western Sahara. Bolton expressed frustration with the position of many in the U.S. State Department, and of Elliot Abrams, "accept[ing] Morocco's line that independence for the Western Sahara -- which nearly everyone thought the Sahrawis would choose in a genuinely free and fair referendum -- would destabilize Morocco and risk takeover by extreme Islamacists... I wondered what had happened to the Bush administration's support for 'democracy' in the broader Middle East." Page 368-9. While Inner City Press has criticism for Bolton's book -- click here for the review -- this section, critiquing the U.S.'s own shifted position, is certainly something of which to "take note"...

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Click here for a Reuters AlertNet piece by this correspondent about Uganda's Lord's Resistance Army. Click here for an earlier Reuters AlertNet piece about the Somali National Reconciliation Congress, and the UN's $200,000 contribution from an undefined trust fund.  Video Analysis here

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UN Office: S-453A, UN, NY 10017 USA Tel: 212-963-1439

Reporter's mobile (and weekends): 718-716-3540