- Title: ALGERIA: U.N. SPECIAL ENVOY JAMES BAKER VISITS ALGERIA
- Date: 26th April 1997
- Summary: SMARA, ALGERIA (APRIL 27, 1997) (RTV - ACCESS ALL) 1. GV/SV THOUSANDS LINING THE ROUTE AND WAVING FLAGS (3 SHOTS) 0.16 2. SLV PEOPLE HOLDING BANNER WHICH READS 'NO PEACE, NO STABILITY WITHOUT INDEPENDENCE AND LIBERTY' (ENGLISH) 0.18 3. SV UNITED NATIONS SPECIAL ENVOY JAMES BAKER'S CAR ARRIVING 0.25 4. LV EXTERIOR OF BUILDING WHERE MEETING WITH POLISARIO LEADERS TOOK PLACE 0.30 5. SV BAKER MEETING POLISARIO LEADERS (3 SHOTS) 0.42 6. SV BAKER SITTING DOWN FOR PRESS CONFERENCE 0.49 7. SCU BAKER SAYING THIS IS A VERY TOUGH PROBLEM BUT IT IS NOT IN MY OPINION HOPELESS OR ELSE I WOULD NOT BE HERE (ENGLISH) 1.00 8. LV PEOPLE LISTENING 1.02 9. SCU BAKER SAYING I AM CONVINCED THAT THE PEOPLES OF THIS REGION ARE OVERLY WEARY WITH THIS ISSUE AND WITH THIS PROBLEM AND ARE LONGING FOR A LASTING, PEACEFUL AND JUST SOLUTION. (ENGLISH) 1.19 10. WIDE OF PRESS CONFERENCE 1.23 11. LV BAKER LEAVING 1.26 ELHAMADA, ALGERIA (APRIL 26, 1997) (RTV - ACCESS ALL) 12. GV PRESS CONFERENCE 1.30 13. SV SAHARAWI FOREIGN AFFAIRS MINISTER BACHIR MUSTAFA SAYED SAYING BAKER FACES A GREAT CHALLENGE BUT HE THOUGHT BAKER'S DIPLOMATIC EXPERIENCE, POLITICAL WEIGHT AND THE BACKING OF THE UN SECURITY COUNCIL WOULD HELP HIM TO MEET THE CHALLENGE (SPANISH) 2.21 14. LV PRESS CONFERENCE 2.26 15. GV/LV SAHARAWI TROOPS LINED UP WITH TANKS AND MISSILES/ SV SOLDIER (4 SHOTS) 2.38 16. SCU ARMY OFFICER ABDURAH AMAN SAYING WE ARE READY TO GO BACK TO WAR AGAIN IF WE DON'T GET INDEPENDENCE (SPANISH) 2.46 17. GV TROOPS 2.50 18. LV REFUGEE CAMP/ GOATS (5 SHOTS) 3.09 19. SV MONSURA BADASHI SAYING WE NEED A LOT OF THINGS TO BE HAPPY - OUR OWN COUNTRY AND OUR OWN PLACE. WE NEED FREEDOM IN THE PLACE WHERE WE LIVE WITHOUT OPPRESSION, WITHOUT THE DIFFICULT CONDITIONS IN WHICH WE LIVE NOW (ENGLISH) 3.33 20. SLV REFUGEES INSIDE HOUSE/ IN DESERT (2 SHOTS) 3.39 Initials s3-2, p3 Script is copyright Reuters Limited. All rights reserved.
- Embargoed: 11th May 1997 13:00
- Location: SMARA AND ELHAMADA, SOUTHERN ALGERIA
- Country: Algeria
- Reuters ID: LVA3FOVUT794NTN6SDH66AXCBY1W
- Story Text: INTRO: United Nations (UN) special envoy James Baker's visit to Algeria has been rewarded with the release of 85 Moroccan prisoners of war by the Sahara independence movement.
The Saharawi people, nomads who have struggled for more than 20 years for independence in the area, greeted Baker's visit with an almost desperate sense of hope.
Tens of thousands of refugees lined the dusty road into Smara welcoming Baker's convoy of jeeps like a liberating army with women and children cheering, men in flowing robes giving peace signs and everyone waving the Sahara flag.
The former U.S. Secretary of State, who was making his last stop on a fact-finding mission to unblock the peace process in the Western Sahara, said he was optimistic about solving the smoldering conflict, which has threatened to flare up into war.
On Sunday he met leaders of the Sahara's independence movement the Polisario and President of the self-proclaimed Arab Sahara Democratic Republic, Mohommed Abulaziz, in Smara instead of the Polisario headquarters in Tindouf after a sand storm made travel in the area difficult.
"This is, of course, a very tough problem but it is not in my opinion hopeless or I wouldn't otherwise be here," Baker told a news conference after the meeting.
He announced that the Polisario Front was releasing the 85 prisoners in a surprise move that he said was "a very, very generous humanitarian gesture of support for our mission".
The Polisario Front has been holding about 2,000 prisoners of war, some of them for more than 20 years.
Saharawi Foreign Affairs Minister Bachir Mustafa Sayed said Baker faced a great challenge but he thought Baker's diplomatic experience, political weight and the backing of the un security council would help him meet the challenge.
The Western Sahara, a former Spanish colony that Morocco claims, is a mass of sand in northwestern Africa that has 1,500 km (945 miles) of Atlantic coastline with accompanying fishing rights and a wealth of phoshates and other minerals.
Some 2,000 troops also stood at attention for Baker's visit, many of them aged and bent, relics of the war started in 1976 when the Polisario took up arms against Morocco and Mauritania and ended by a U.N.-brokered ceasefire in September 1991.
The ceasefire called for a referendum on the status of the area, but was delayed again and again and finally abandoned in 1995 after a continuing dispute over who was eligible to vote.
Baker, who arrived from Mauritania, was on his first visit to the region since U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan appointed him as his personal envoy for Western Sahara last month.
He also visited Morocco and held talks with Algerian leaders in Algiers.
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