216. Telegram From the Department of State to the Embassy in Morocco1

267508. Subject: Secretary’s Meeting With Moroccan Foreign Minister Boucetta—Western Sahara.

1. Boucetta opened November 7 substantive discussion with statement that he hopes shared ideals give Morocco “privileged” relation with U.S. Morocco has chosen democracy and is in process of political liberalization, a trend unusual in Third World and in contrast with Algerian example. Morocco has been concerned by development of axis linking Moscow, Algeria, Luanda and Havana and has tried in Shaba and elsewhere to use limited means at its disposal to counter this axis’ activities. Turning to the Sahara conflict, Boucetta said Morocco had been both colonialized and decolonialized in phases, with the decolonialization of the Sahara following procedures quite common among Francophone colonies, i.e., including consultation with provincial assembly. He described Polisario as quote a fiction—a creation of Algeria. Unquote.

2. When Boucetta said Hassan instructed him to raise with Secretary issue of recent Polisario use of heavy weapons, Secretary commented that U.S. intelligence experts have seen no such evidence. Boucetta welcomed Secretary’s suggestion that American and Moroccan intelligence experts meet. Boucetta then elaborated on Moroccan claims, stating Antonov aircraft transporting arms and men to areas near Chegga, and elsewhere in Mauritania and Mali. He said that as he left Rabat Hassan had told him Moroccan forces had seen or had recovered battle debris proving that Polisario using armored cars and 23 mm artillery, which Boucetta said must be manned by Algerians and/or other non-Saharans. FonMin said French press has carried interview of Algerian NCO captured in Mauritania who said he was one of 500 Algerian artillerymen in a 600-man band which infiltrated Mauritania. Polisario have been mutilating faces of their own dead when leaving corpses on battlefield to prevent identification of Algerians, Boucetta said.

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3. FonMin then indicated difficulties with tank and other ammunition but said he understood these would be resolved at technical level within the week. He pledged Morocco would not use military weapons for aggression but added that Morocco was sure of justice of its position and hoped U.S. too would be on side of justice and of Morocco’s right to recover its territory.

4. In responding, Secretary said during meeting later in day with Soviet Ambassador he would urge the Soviets to counsel the Algerians to exercise restraint in circumstances which appear to be endangering the peace.2 Secretary added that in meeting planned for following day with Bouteflika he would urge that Algerians seek to solve the dispute through restraint and diplomacy rather than military conflict. After Boucetta explained state of play in UN’s Fourth Committee, Secretary said he would consult with Ambassador Young. Secretary did not respond to Boucetta’s statement that later in year Morocco may be looking for U.S. to support its contention that self-determination has occurred in Western Sahara should Morocco decide to try to have Western Sahara deleted from agenda.3

5. Turning to U.S. military assistance, Secretary told Boucetta that in spirit of frankness he wanted Moroccans to be aware both practical and congressional problems would have to be considered.4 He cited reopening of OV–10 production line as example of former and possible objections of some Congressmen to use in Western Sahara of American supplied military equipment as example of latter. Secretary concluded that U.S. wants to be as helpful as it can be, but existence of these problems makes it impossible to make any commitments before we talk to Congress. FonMin responded that Moroccan need is great, repeated that U.S. furnished weapons would not be used for aggression, but added Moroccans would defend their entire territory.5

6. With respect to diplomatic situation, Boucetta said Morocco could act with the flexibility necessary, but the issue is more the preservation of Morocco’s territorial integrity than self-determination. He voiced apprehension that time might be running against Morocco. While Morocco’s friends are studying the situation carefully, Algeria [Page 521] is being encouraged by their delay in taking a firm position.6 He lauded as clear France’s statements on Western Sahara and said a firmer U.S. position is necessary to keep Algeria from going too far.

7. Subsequent discussion concerned Middle East and is being reported via septel.7

  1. Source: Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Staff Material, Middle East, Subject File, Box 69, Morocco: 7/77–2/78. Secret; Immediate. Sent for information Immediate to Algiers and Nouakchott. Sent for information to Moscow, Paris, Madrid, USUN, and the Department of Defense. Printed from a copy that was received in the White House Situation Room. Drafted by Bishop; cleared in S; approved by Atherton. (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D770412–1042)
  2. An unknown hand placed a checkmark in the right-hand margin. In telegram 266736 to Moscow, November 8, Vance summarized his meeting with Dobrynin: “I told Dobrynin that I had been talking with the Moroccan Foreign Minister, Boucetta, and was concerned about the potentially explosive situation in the Western Sahara. I urged the Soviet side to exercise its influence with the Algerians, and warned that as larger units became involved, the danger increased.” (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, P840076–0388)
  3. An unknown hand highlighted this sentence.
  4. An unknown hand placed a checkmark in the right-hand margin.
  5. An unknown hand highlighted the last two sentences of this paragraph.
  6. An unknown hand highlighted this sentence.
  7. Telegram 267504 to Rabat, November 8. (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, P850071–1617)