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French Version

Morocco - Morocco backs Western Sahara autonomy

Moroccan King Mohammad VI has said he would consult with his country's political parties about autonomy for Western Sahara on the 30th anniversary of the territory's annexation by Rabat.

"We have decided to consult the political parties, having regard for their fundamental role in major national questions, to see how they view the exercise of autonomy within the kingdom," he said during a Sunday-night speech transmitted over radio and television on Morocco's "Green March" anniversary.

On this date in 1975, the late Moroccan King Hassan II encouraged some 350,000 Moroccans armed with the Koran and the national flag to march to the border with Western Sahara in a show of support for Morocco's annexation of the former Spanish colony.

Mohammad VI said the talks with political parties would work on a proposition on autonomy that Morocco can present to the UN.

Morocco's claim to Western Sahara is contested by the Polisario Front, an Algerian-backed independence movement.

The UN has sought to settle the dispute over Western Sahara. But Rabat dismissed the last UN proposal for a five-year period of autonomy followed by a self-determination referendum - the so-called Baker Plan named after U.S. former Secretary of State James Baker, who threw in the towel in June 2004 expressing his frustration over lack of progress.

Last month Rabat told the UN it was ready to engage in negotiations with Algeria and the Polisario about autonomy for Western Sahara within the kingdom of Morocco.

Mohammad VI said Morocco supports a "negotiated political solution which would give our southern provinces an autonomy permitting its residents to manage their own regional affairs within the sovereignty of the kingdom."

One week ago Laayoune was the scene of demonstrations for independence. The clashes between protesters and police left one person dead.

Beirut,11 07 2005
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