The war in the Western Sahara, where Polisario guerrillas are fighting Morocco for independence, entered its fifth year on Wednesday (27 February), with no military victory for either side in sight But four years after Spain gave up its former colony to Morocco and Mauritania, the balance of power in the phosphate-rich desert region has changed significantly.
GV PAN & CU Polisario soldier watches from hillside as troops and equipment assemble (2 shots)
SV Polisario troops seated in vehicles (2 shots)
SV & CU Arms and equipment including tanks, missiles and light machine guns on display (5 shots)
CU PAN & LV Captured Moroccan prisoners seated on ground (3 shots)
SV Guests and newsmen touring the site
GV & SV Refugee from Sahara seated watching flag-raising (3 shots)
SV Officer saluting
GV Crowd applauds
LV & CU Polisario military parade led by armed vehicles (2 shots)
SV PAN Parade continues with troops in vehicles
SV Tanks roll past
SV & LV General Secretary of Polisario, Mohammed Abdelaziz speaking from rostrum (6 shots)
Script is copyright Reuters Limited. All rights reserved
Background: The war in the Western Sahara, where Polisario guerrillas are fighting Morocco for independence, entered its fifth year on Wednesday (27 February), with no military victory for either side in sight But four years after Spain gave up its former colony to Morocco and Mauritania, the balance of power in the phosphate-rich desert region has changed significantly.
SYNOPSIS: Over the years, the Polisario has grown into a disciplined, well armed and efficient army, regarded as one of the world's most effective guerrilla units. So efficient that Mauritania, faced with the increasing toll the war was taking on men, money and equipment, made peace with the Polisario last August (1979) and abandoned its part of the Western Sahara, which Morocco immediately annexed.
But Morocco continues the conflict with the Polisario. Morocco's losses include expensive French-made Mirage F-1 warplanes; a fact which reflects the Polisario's claim that they now are better armed than their adversaries.
Polisario leaders say the nomad guerrillas launched more than seven-hundred raids in 1979, and killed or injured six-thousand Moroccan troops. They also took a claimed 15-hundred prisoners and say they're now in a position to "impose peace" through military means in the coming year.
While the fighting continues, thousands of refugees have fled to temporary homes in Algeria. One camp in here at Tindouf, only a few miles from the border. They came to watch a military parade and also to hear that Iran had become the thirty-sixth nation to recognise the Polisario state.
Wednesday's (27 February) parade marks the fourth anniversary of the republic proclaimed by the Polisario in 1976. Some 12-hundred guerrillas marched past Polisario leaders and more than four-hundred invited guests, while another 12-hundred roared by in two-hundred vehicles, all said to have been -- some of them during raids up to 1-hundred-and-25 miles (200 kilometres) inside Morocco's southern borders. During the past year, hit-and-run raids have forced the Moroccans to withdraw from six garrison towns.
Polisario Secretary General, Mohammed Abdelaziz has urged Morocco to end its opposition to a separate Western Sahara public, and to open direct negotiations with his desert army. The United States is supporting Morocco's forces with sophisticated weapons, but at the same time, Washington agrees with the main international organisations calling for self-determination for the Western Sahara.