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US Congressman: We expect a different approach from Obama administration




US Representative Donald Payne, Member of Congress and President of the House Sub-Committee on Africa and Global Health, estimated on Tuesday that Obama’s administration will certainly have a different approach to the question of Western Sahara.

After taking part in the opening day of a series of conferences on the Western Sahara organized by six public universities in Madrid, US Representative Donald Payne, responded to questions from the Spanish press regarding to the United States’ position on the Western Sahara.

“I am not prepared to predict any change in policy, but I can say that President Obama is a person who listens, who is very concerned with human rights, and who meets with people who have experience and expertise. So you can certainly expect a different approach.”

During this press conference, many of the questions focused around the lack of clarity regarding the position of the new Obama Administration. The Congressman, however, was reluctant to answer any questions concerning the Executive Branch.

“I am not a representative of the Executive Branch or the State Department,” insisted Congressman Payne. “We as Members of Congress attempt to influence the Administration, but we need a majority to have any serious effect.

Responding to questions on whether the Members of Congress who had written a letter to President Obama supporting the Saharawis had received any response, the Representative said no, but that he was not concerned.

“The fact that we haven’t gotten a personal response from the President yet is not unusual,” said Mr. Payne. “The country’s priority right now is the economy. We certainly will hear back from him in due time.”

Representative Payne also spoke on the direct negotiations being arranged by the United Nations and the possible resumption of armed conflict.

“The best way to solve any problem is negotiation between two parties, in my opinion,” offered Mr. Payne. “Obviously, that hasn’t worked here, so other factors have gotten involved, but I still think that it would be a win-win solution if the two conflicting parties could negotiate a resolution.”

“Most of us work for the avoidance of war,” continued the Congressman. “War should be a last option and should be avoided at all costs. I would hope that there is not ever again a return to war in the Western Sahara.”

Before concluding, the US Congressman asked for patience with the new Administration, which has a number of serious issues confronting it.

“This is a very important issue, and there are those of us who are really giving it urgency. But I just want you to be aware that the US gets called on by countries throughout Africa and throughout the world,” concluded Mr. Payne. “Still, we will continue to push for a referendum in the Western Sahara.”

On hand for the press conference were a number of Spanish television stations and periodicals, as well as Al-Jazeera.