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Socialists seek face-saving exit from escalating Sahrawi crisis

Issues with Morocco are damaging the government, latest polls reveal

The escalating political crisis with Morocco over its heavy-handed dealings with Sahrawi protestors, the expulsion and arrest of Spanish journalists and the government's failure to openly chastise Rabat has marred the Socialists' recent drive to nose ahead in opinion polls, a source of much consternation among the party's ranks.

A Cabinet meeting last Friday and an assembly of the party's management committee both dedicated considerable time to seeking a way out of the Sahrawi crisis with faces saved, as public and political opinion has swung firmly against the government.

Socialist sources have conceded, though, that "it's impossible to do what the heart compels because it is impossible to condemn Morocco."

"We are acutely aware of how sensitive this matter is for our people, for our party, and for public opinion in general," Socialist Party spokesman Marcelino Iglesias said Monday. However, the government's stance is one that will not play to the public gallery with regional elections around the corner: "We want to get along with Morocco and between friends and neighbors we can't say things they don't like."