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Viewing cable 08ALGIERS261, ALGERIAN LEADERSHIP TOWS WESTERN SAHARA LINE WITH

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
08ALGIERS261 2008-03-03 15:03 2010-12-03 21:09 SECRET Embassy Algiers
VZCZCXRO3499
PP RUEHTRO
DE RUEHAS #0261/01 0631552
ZNY SSSSS ZZH
P 031552Z MAR 08
FM AMEMBASSY ALGIERS
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 5393
INFO RUEHMD/AMEMBASSY MADRID 8851
RUEHFR/AMEMBASSY PARIS 2604
RUEHRB/AMEMBASSY RABAT 2226
RUEHTU/AMEMBASSY TUNIS 7079
RUEHTRO/AMEMBASSY TRIPOLI
RUEHNK/AMEMBASSY NOUAKCHOTT 6275
RUEHNM/AMEMBASSY NIAMEY 1514
RUEHBP/AMEMBASSY BAMAKO 0463
RUEHCL/AMCONSUL CASABLANCA 3309
RHMFISS/HQ USEUCOM VAIHINGEN GE
S E C R E T SECTION 01 OF 02 ALGIERS 000261 

SIPDIS 

SIPDIS 

E.O. 12958: DECL: 03/01/2023 
TAGS: PREL PGOV PTER KDEM AG
SUBJECT: ALGERIAN LEADERSHIP TOWS WESTERN SAHARA LINE WITH 
A/S WELCH 

REF: 07 ALGIERS 1069 

Classified By: Ambassador Robert S. Ford; reasons 1.4 (b) and (d). 

1. (S) SUMMARY: In February 26 and 27 meetings with NEA 
Assistant Secretary C. David Welch, President Abdelaziz 
Bouteflika and Prime Minister Abdelaziz Belkhadem emphasized 
their familiar line on self-determination for Western Sahara, 
as well as the need to find a way out that would allow 
Algeria to "save face." Bouteflika said that relations with 
Morocco were "brotherly" and that Western Sahara was the only 
issue standing between them. Because the U.S. was unburdened 
by the colonial past of France in the region, Bouteflika felt 
it was ideally placed to serve as an informal referee in 
resolving the dispute. Although he said he understood 
Morocco felt threatened by the prospect of Western Saharan 
independence, Bouteflika said that Morocco only had itself to 
blame for the current situation, as it had proceeded in a 
"clumsy" manner. With a more "elegant" touch, he said, 
Morocco could have encouraged "a Puerto Rico" outcome, where 
Sahrawis would happily choose to remain a part of Morocco in 
some form. Welch underlined to the Algerian officials that 
the U.S. sought a practical approach that could help the 
current negotiations make progress, and the Moroccan autonomy 
proposal offered such a possibility. END SUMMARY. 

LOVE FOR BAKER PLAN DIES HARD 
----------------------------- 

2. (S) In response to A/S Welch's assertion that the Moroccan 
plan served to move a frozen situation forward in the absence 
of any alternative, Bouteflika asserted that the plan of 
former Secretary of State James Baker was such an 
alternative. He told A/S Welch that if another option was 
necessary, "self-determination is that alternative" and the 
Baker Plan should be discussed. A/S Welch replied that the 
Baker plan is dead because it, too, failed to generate 
progress. In Bouteflika's view, Baker failed because it was 
not given a chance, and he blamed the U.S. for "not taking 
its UN Security Council responsibilities seriously." 
Bouteflika said the Moroccan plan offered less autonomy for 
Western Sahara than an Algerian province currently enjoys 
(reftel). He conceded that Algeria does have influence in 
Western Sahara, but swore he would not use it to violate what 
he sees as international law. 

MOROCCAN "CLUMSINESS" TO BLAME 
------------------------------ 

3. (S) Prime Minister Abdelaziz Belkhadem told A/S Welch on 
February 26 that the stability of Morocco was in Algeria's 
interest, and that attempting "to transform an anti-colonial 
issue" was not the right path to take and was potentially 
destabilizing to the region. Bouteflika, meanwhile, said 
that he understood Morocco felt threatened by the prospect of 
independence for Western Sahara, but stressed that the 
Moroccans only had themselves to blame for current Sahrawi 
determination. Bouteflika explained, saying that Morocco 
could have easily used a more "elegant" approach to produce a 
Western Sahara independence that could be controlled or 
supervised. Instead, he said, "they want Anschluss like 
Saddam Hussein with Kuwait." Bouteflika said he easily could 
have imagined an outcome in which Western Sahara chose to 
remain a part of Morocco after seeing the benefits of 
Moroccan rule, in much the same way "as Puerto Rico chose to 
remain part of the U.S." According to Bouteflika, Morocco 
needs to offer the Polisario something, since "you cannot ask 
concessions from people who have nothing in their pockets." 
Had it not been for Morocco's "clumsy" approach, Bouteflika 
said "they could have gotten what they wanted." 

ON FRANCE AND U.S. 
------------------ 

4. (S) Burdened by its colonial history in the Maghreb, 
France is unable to play a constructive role in resolving the 
Western Sahara dispute, according to Bouteflika. France "has 
never really accepted Algerian independence," Bouteflika 
said, and he claimed that France was trying to settle scores 
with Algeria by interfering in Western Sahara in support of 
Morocco. In contrast, Bouteflika said the U.S. was an ideal 
counterweight to balance Morocco, as none of the parties 

ALGIERS 00000261 002 OF 002 


involved had any bone of contention with the U.S. Bouteflika 
complained that the U.S. treats Algeria as "second class" 
compared to the preferential treatment it gives to Tunisia 
and Morocco. He said the U.S. should understand Algeria 
better, as "you also paid a price for your independence." 
Belkhadem told A/S Welch of Algeria's admiration for U.S. 
positions on the independence of East Timor and Kosovo. "Why 
don't you share the same views on Western Sahara?" asked 
Belkhadem, "it leaves us wondering what our U.S. friends 
want." With both Algerians, A/S Welch underlined that the 
U.S. sought practical approaches that would advance the 
Western Sahara negotiations forward. The Moroccan proposal, 
he noted, offered a possibility. He urged the Algerians to 
consider what they could do to help the current negotiations 
make concrete progress. 

COMMENT: NEED TO SAVE FACE 
-------------------------- 

5. (S) Bouteflika repeated to A/S Welch several times the 
need for Algeria to get itself out of the Western Sahara 
dispute in a way that allowed it to "save face." He 
reiterated that Algeria "has no claim" at stake, and spoke of 
looking towards positive future relations with Morocco, as 
"one day we will need to get beyond this." In a February 27 
meeting with Foreign Minister Mourad Medelci, A/S Welch 
invited the Algerian delegation to visit Washington 
immediately following the next round of negotiations at 
Manhasset, to continue the discussions. 

6. (U) This cable has not been cleared by A/S Welch. 
FORD