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Annan recommends two-month extension of UN's Western Sahara mission

Annan recommends two-month extension of UN's Western Sahara mission

Secretary-General Kofi Annan today reported that there has been no progress in the implementation of the United Nations Settlement Plan for Western Sahara, but recommended that the UN mission in the country be extended for two months to allow the parties to explore a possible solution.

That recommendation is contained in Mr. Annan's latest report to the Security Council on the mission, known by its French acronym MINURSO, which was first deployed in 1991 to conduct a referendum for the people of Western Sahara to choose between independence and integration with Morocco.

According to the report, while there has been no advancement in overcoming obstacles to the Settlement Plan, there has been some progress in determining whether Morocco, as the administrative power, "is prepared to offer or support some devolution of authority for all inhabitants and former inhabitants of the Territory that is genuine, substantial and in keeping with international norms." The two-month extension, through 30 June, should be used to provide time for consultations on a possible devolution of authority, the report says.

Mr. Annan makes his proposal at the recommendation of his Personal Envoy, James Baker III, who in recent months has been "able to fully re-engage in trying to assist the parties to find an early, durable and agreed resolution to their dispute over Western Sahara." Previously, Mr. Annan reported that Mr. Baker had been required to undertake duties in relation to the 2000 United States Presidential election.

According to a UN spokesman, the Security Council is expected to consider the report during consultations on Thursday. MINURSO's mandate is set to expire on 30 April.