Western Sahara hunger striker taken to hospital

A Western Saharan activist on hunger strike for over a month in Spain's Canary Islands was taken to hospital on Thursday, and negotiations on her case were said to be under way in Washington.

Aminatou Haidar, who campaigns for the independence of Western Sahara from Morocco, has been on hunger strike at Lanzarote airport in the Canary Islands for 32 days.

Television images showed her being moved to hospital on Thursday and she was said to be suffering from severe stomach and abdominal pains and vomiting.

Her lawyer said she would not end her hunger strike. "The treatment she is receiving is just to relieve and calm the pain and Aminatou will continue her hunger strike," said Ines Miranda.

Haidar, 43, who has continued to take liquids, began her protest after Moroccan authorities refused her entry when she returned home from a trip abroad, confiscated her passport and put her on a plane to the Canary Islands.

A report in the daily El Pais said Morocco had sent a high level delegation to the United States to try to negotiate a resolution to the case, which has embarrassed the Spanish government.

The report said two close advisers to Morocco's head of state, King Mohammed, held talks in Washington on Tuesday and Wednesday with U.S. officials, and Spain was being kept informed of progress.

On Wednesday Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero said he hoped and trusted the case would be resolved quickly. He said sensitive behind-the-scenes diplomatic work was going on but declined to give details.

Spanish celebrities including film actor Javier Bardem have said Zapatero will be partly to blame if Haidar dies. Media and the opposition have accused the government of incompetence in allowing the Moroccans to send her to Spain.

[Source: Reuters, Madrid, 17Dec09]

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