Morocco -- and on the first anniversary of the "Green March" to the Western Sahara about 15,000 veterans of the trek organised by King Hassan paraded in the streets of Rabat, the Moroccan capital, on Saturday (6 November).
GV Officials watching "Green March" anniversary parade in rabat, Morocco (2 shots)
SV King Hassan of Morocco pinning emblems on flags
SV King Hassan and officials greeting crowd
GV PAN Ban playing in front of monument
SV King Hassan and officials walking past crowd into building
SV PAN Dignitaries seated on terrace
SV King Hassan seated
SV Dignitaries seated on terrace
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Background: Morocco -- and on the first anniversary of the "Green March" to the Western Sahara about 15,000 veterans of the trek organised by King Hassan paraded in the streets of Rabat, the Moroccan capital, on Saturday (6 November).
SYNOPSIS: The "Green March" took place last year to emphasise Morocco's claim to part of the then Spanish Sahara. At the time about 350,000 unarmed people responded to King Hassan's plea to mount a crusade to take over the territory.
At the very last moment King Hassan -- seen here performing his official duties at Saturday's parade -- ordered the marchers to withdraw, but only after some of them had crossed the border into the Spanish Sahara. Spain had assembled reserves to back up its military garrison in the territory, but the withdrawal was not the capitulation it appeared to be on the surface. Within a week, Spain agreed to hand over the territory to Morocco and Mauritania, who divided in among themselves. The last Spanish forces were withdrawn in January this year.
But this agreement was opposed by the Western Saharan independence group the Polisario Front, who are backed by Algeria. Tension over the territory brought Morocco and Algeria to the brink of war and there were armed clashes between Polisario guerrillas and Moroccan and Mauritanian forces. On Saturday, however, the tensions were forgotten and Moroccan newspapers described the "Green March" as "the miracle of the century".
Senior officials watched the parade with King Hassan, bands played and a carnival atmosphere prevailed in the Moroccan capital.