Subject: Timor delegates celebrate Western Sahara

Timor, French delegates celebrate Western Sahara

2009-02-28 19:01:01 -

LAAYOUNE REFUGEE CAMP, Western Sahara (AP) - Delegates from East Timor, France and Algeria joined the Saharawi government-in-exile on Saturday in its call for Western Sahara's independence.

The ceremony, including nomads on camel back and marches by Saharawi boy scouts and female soldiers, ended a week of festivities for the 33rd anniversary of the proclamation of the Saharawi Republic.

The Polisario Front _ a rebel movement that rejected the annexing of Western Sahara by Morocco _ announced the creation of the republic on Feb. 27, 1976.

Morocco has offered an autonomy plan for Western Sahara. The Polisario, which fought a 16-war against Morocco until a U.N.-brokered cease-fire in 1991, wants a referendum on self-determination.

Foreign envoys at Saturday's ceremony said they would lobby the United Nations to organize the referendum that the international body has pledged.

East Timor's vice-prime minister, Jose Louis Guterres, noted his country's similarity to Western Sahara: Both are former colonies of Spain or Portugal later annexed by a larger neighbor upon decolonization. Following years of rebellion, East Timor was declared independent from Indonesia in May 2002 after a U.N.-sponsored referendum.

«We are the proof that change is possible and that freedom and independence always prevail,» Guterres told the crowd of Saharawis and European activists in the Laayoune refugee camp near Algeria's border with Western Sahara.

Morocco's peace talks with the Polisario have sputtered for nearly two decades _ making the territory one of the world's oldest and most-forgotten conflict zones.

Several delegates blamed Europe's and America's strong economic and political ties with Morocco for the fact the U.N. hasn't made much progress on the Saharawi issue.

«The Saharawis deserve the same solidarity as Palestinians or the people from Darfur,» said Ager Aneslati, a town councilwoman in the Paris suburb of Vitry-Sur-Seine. She was one of 120 French elected officials of Algerian descent who attended the ceremony.

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