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Letter: Desert war threat

Sir: On 11 February the UN peace mission in the Western Sahara may be withdrawn. If it is, war will almost certainly ensue there within days.

The UN mission is in the area attempting to maintain a ceasefire between the occupation forces of the Kingdom of Morocco and the Polisario, who represent the indigenous people of the area, the Saharawi. The UN's other task was to oversee a referendum on the future of the territory, forcibly occupied by Morocco in 1975, a referendum that Morocco agreed to in 1997 but which it has refused to implement.

The UN Secretary-General cites a "lack of political will" on the part of the Moroccan authorities for the breakdown in the situation. But Moroccan "will" to stay in military occupation of the Western Sahara is bolstered by a pounds 5 per annum handout from every man woman and child in the UK, via the EU aid budget. The pounds 280m involved is used by the Moroccan authorities through budgetary transfers to ease the pounds 1m per day cost of the military occupation of the Western Sahara.

Morocco is hugely dependent on British and European tourism. If war breaks out in the Western Sahara it may well spread throughout Morocco and the other countries in the region. I would ask your readers, many of whom vacation in Morocco, to consider these facts when deciding on this year's holiday destination.


House of Lords

London SW1