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Annan proposes two-month 'technical' extension of UN Western Sahara mission

Annan proposes two-month 'technical' extension of UN Western Sahara mission

Secretary-General Kofi Annan is seeking a two-month "technical" extension of the mandate of the United Nations Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara (MINURSO) to allow time for further consultations with the parties on proposals for a political solution, according to a document released today.

In a letter to the President of the Security Council, Mr. Annan proposes extending MINURSO's mandate, set to expire at the end of this month, through 31 January so that his Personal Envoy for Western Sahara, James Baker III, can continue talks on a draft Framework Agreement as well as other proposals by the parties to arrive at a mutually acceptable solution.

The Framework Agreement, originally put forward by Mr. Annan in a report to the Council in June, was developed in response to "serious doubts" expressed by Mr. Baker and shared by the Secretary-General as to whether the settlement plan - which calls for a referendum to allow the people of the Territory to choose between independence or integration with Morocco - could be executed in its present form in a way that would result in an early, durable and agreed resolution of the dispute over Western Sahara.

As part of his efforts, Mr. Baker held a three-day round of talks during August in Pinedale, Wyoming, with representatives of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Saguia el-Hamra and Rio de Oro (POLISARIO Front) and the Governments of Algeria and Mauritania. However, according to the letter released today, Mr. Baker recently informed Mr. Annan that "he would need additional time for these consultations."

The draft Framework Agreement would confer on the population of Western Sahara the right to elect their own executive and legislative bodies and to have exclusive competence over "local governmental administration, territorial budget and taxation, law enforcement, internal security, social welfare, culture, education, commerce, transportation, agriculture, mining, fisheries and industry, environmental policy, housing and urban development, water and electricity, roads and other basic infrastructure," according to the Secretary-General's April report. Within five years, a referendum on the final status of the Territory would be held.