Spain seeks urgent explanation of Morocco raid in W.Sahara

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Spain has demanded an urgent explanation of a Moroccan police raid on a Western Saharan refugee camp that left 12 people dead, Foreign Minister Trinidad Jimenez said Friday.

Clashes erupted Monday when Moroccan forces broke up a camp housing thousands of refugees outside the main town of Laayoune in the former Spanish colony annexed by Rabat in 1975.

"Spain believes the circumstances of these events should be clarified urgently, and this is what we relayed to the Moroccan government," she told a news conference.

Spain also sought an explanation of what happened to a Spanish citizen, Baby Hamadi Buyema, who was killed during the raid, she said.

In the eastern Spanish city of Alicante, his brother Lehmad Hamday Buyema said the victim had been "brutally murdered" by police who crashed a car into him.

Moroccan officials said late Thursday the toll had climbed by one to 12 after the death of a demonstrator. They say 10 of those killed in the clashes were from the security forces.

The Polisario Front, which opposes Moroccan rule in Western Sahara, has indicated that at least some of the victims were civilians.

The foreign minister said Spain regretted the loss of human life and she expressed the solidarity of the Spanish people with the victims and their relatives.

"The government rejects violence as a way of resolving any kind of conflict and we call on the parties to return to the path of dialogue and we urge both parties to re-establish normality in the zone," she said.

Western Sahara was annexed by Morocco after Spanish settlers withdrew in 1975, but the Polisario Front fought the Moroccan presence until the United Nations brokered a ceasefire in 1991.

The Polisario Front wants a UN-organised referendum on self-determination, with independence as one of the options. Morocco has so far rejected any proposal that goes beyond greater autonomy.

The third round of informal talks between the Polisario Front and Morocco on Western Sahara's future held near New York ended Tuesday with both sides only agreeing to meet again in December.

"This is a conflict that has gone on too long and it is imperative that we reach a solution as soon as possible," Jiminez said.

"Spain has developed a policy of active and responsible commitment to push for a resolution to the conflict within the framework of the United Nations because we believe it is the only way to reach a political solution that is just, long-lasting and mutually acceptable."

Jimenez earlier told private television Telecinco that she had asked the Moroccan authorities to allow journalists to do their job so that people could understand what was happening there.

Three journalists from the private Spanish radio Cadena Ser were at the airport waiting to be expelled from Laayoune, she said.

© 2010 AFP

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