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French Version

Algerian president calls for 'fraternal and privileged relations' with Morocco

Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika has sent a message to King Mohammad of Morocco expressing his determination to develop "fraternal and privileged relations" between the two North African countries, the Moroccan press agency MAP reported.

At the same time, Morocco welcomed calls for the "relaunching" of a dialogue with Algeria following the release of the last of some 2,000 Moroccan prisoners of war held by the separatist Polisario regime of Western Sahara.

The August 18 release of 404 Moroccan prisoners of war from a Polisario base in southern Algeria - some held for two decades - spurred calls for renewed efforts to resolve the 30-year-old conflict in the Western Sahara.

U.S. Senator Richard Lugar, who supervised the prisoners' liberation, applauded the Algerian-Moroccan rapprochement and asked the two countries to continue work toward "a peaceful political solution to the question of the Western Sahara." Morocco and Algeria are both members of the Maghreb Arab Union linking the countries of north Africa but the five-member organization is defunct because of the dispute between the two nations over Western Sahara.

Morocco annexed the desert region when Spain pulled out, while Algeria has thrown its weight behind the Polisario Front, which is fighting for the independence of Western Sahara.

Bouteflika said Algeria was "determined ... to pursue cooperation with Morocco ... and to work for the development of fraternal and privileged relations between the two peoples and brother countries in view of the creation of a grand Arab Mahgreb."

The foreign affairs ministry in Rabat said in a statement that Morocco welcomed calls for "partnership in the North African region to work, under the guidance of the UN, toward a definitive political solution that is acceptable to all parties." The Moroccan government noted, however, that the cases of disappearance of more than 210 Moroccans still "await elucidation," and that Algerian responsibility in those cases "remains absolute." The 404 prisoners liberated this week were captured during the 1975-1988 conflict over the status of the Western Sahara, a former Spanish colony whose annexation by Morocco triggered the hostilities.

Alger,08 22 2005
The Daily Star
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