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Western Sahara: Security Council members concerned at lack of progress

Western Sahara: Security Council members concerned at lack of progress

Members of the Security Council today expressed "considerable concern" at the lack of progress in resolving the dispute over Western Sahara, a non-self-governing Territory abutting Morocco, the administering power.

In a statement to reporters on behalf of the members, Council President Jeremy Greenstock of the United Kingdom also expressed concern at the absence of advancement on humanitarian issues, particularly refugees, missing persons and prisoners of war.

Calling the delay in releasing those prisoners "unacceptable," the Council President urged the parties -- the Moroccan Government and the Frente POLISARIO -- to "liberate all persons still detained in connection with the conflict." He stressed that since that matter was not linked to political considerations, it should be resolved urgently.

Ambassador Greenstock's comments followed a closed-door briefing to the Council by the Assistant Secretary-General for Peacekeeping, Hédi Annabi, who introduced the Secretary-General's latest report on Western Sahara. The report recommends a two-month extension of the UN mission in the area, which was set up in 1991 to allow the people of the Territory to choose between independence and integration into Morocco.

In his remarks to the press, the Council President stated the members were considering the proposed extension for the Mission, whose mandate will expire on 30 April. "So far there has been a positive reaction to that recommendation, but of course concerns [were] expressed about a lack of progress in resolving the dispute," he said.