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Security Council extends mandate of UN's Western Sahara mission through July

Security Council extends mandate of UN's Western Sahara mission through July

The United Nations Security Council today extended the mandate of the UN Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara (MINURSO) until 31 July to allow time to examine proposals by Secretary-General Kofi Annan on breaking the current impasse over the territory.

The Council set up MINURSO in 1991 to implement a Settlement Plan between Morocco and the Frente POLISARIO aimed at allowing the people of the territory to participate in a referendum to determine whether Western Sahara should be independent or integrated with Morocco. Despite extensive preparations, the conditions for holding the referendum have never been met.

In his latest report on the situation, the Secretary-General expressed hope that the Council would soon decide "how it wishes to proceed with regard to the future of the peace process in Western Sahara."

In a previous report to the Council, Mr. Annan had presented four options to overcome the stalemate. The first would have the UN resume trying to implement the 1988 settlement plan, even without the concurrence of the two parties, the Frente POLISARIO and Morocco. The second would have Mr. Annan's Personal Envoy, James Baker III, try to revise the draft Framework Agreement - again without necessarily gaining the agreement of the parties. The third option would be to mandate Mr. Baker to discuss a possible division of the territory with interested parties, and the fourth would see the Council terminate MINURSO due to the lack of progress.

Meanwhile, in another development today, a UN spokesman refuted press reports that Mr. Baker, had stated that he would resign if the Council did not give him a mandate to work on revising the draft framework agreement.

Mr. Baker "favours any option that will give him a clear mandate and which will have the support of the Security Council," spokesman Fred Eckhard said in a statement to the press. "He is of the view that any option that the Security Council chooses, should give the Secretary-General and his Personal Envoy sufficient authority to try and resolve the long-standing conflict over Western Sahara."