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French Version

Algeria rejects Moroccan accusations over migrants

Charges are 'fanciful, fallacious, outrageous'

Algeria described Moroccan accusations that it is using African migrants as a propaganda tool in the dispute over Western Sahara as "fanciful, fallacious and outrageous." Separately, the EU's justice and home affairs commissioner called on the bloc's governments to quickly adopt new measures to curb human trafficking into Europe.

Moroccan Prime Minister Driss Jettou accused Algeria on Sunday of letting thousands of migrants seeking to enter Europe sneak across the border into Morocco to damage its crackdown on illegal migration.

He said Algeria was gathering would-be migrants in the Tindouf region - the base of the Algerian-backed Polisario Front guerrilla movement seeking independence for Western Sahara - and using them as a propaganda tool in the conflict.

The Algerian Foreign Ministry, in a statement released late on Monday, condemned what it called "a deplorable increase over the last few days in evil and defamatory comments about Algeria."

"Faced with this flood of fanciful, fallacious and outrageous accusations by the Moroccan authorities clearly looking for a scapegoat for their own behavior, Algeria remains resolutely calm," the statement said.

Rabat has deployed some 11,000 troops to crack down on illegal migration and deported more than 2,000 migrants, mostly Malian and Senegalese.

The Polisario Front said on Sunday that its guerrillas had found 92 migrants in the Sahara desert. It said they had been bussed there and abandoned by Moroccan authorities in a area full of anti-personnel mines.

Morocco annexed Western Sahara in 1975 when former colonial power Spain pulled out and fought a guerrilla war with the Polisario Front.

A UN-brokered cease-fire in 1991 ended the armed conflict but the dispute over its future rumbled on.

The Algerian Foreign Ministry said it regretted "the inappropriate and unjustified confusion between the complex problem of immigration and the question of the desalinization of Western Sahara."

It said the Moroccan accusations would not push Algeria to change its position over Western Sahara. Algiers has repeatedly said it is up to the United Nations to deal with the dispute over the territory.

In Brussels, meanwhile, EU commissioner Franco Frattini said he would present proposed new rules at a conference on human trafficking Wednesday. Frattini has warned that some 30,000 would-be migrants were in Algeria and Morocco ready to attempt entry into Europe. He said 95 percent of the migrants trying to break into the EU were from sub-Saharan Africa.

Casablanca,10 24 2005
The Daily Star
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