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Security Council to continue talks on resolution to extend UN's Western Sahara mission

Security Council to continue talks on resolution to extend UN's Western Sahara mission

With Wednesday the deadline for renewing the mandate of the United Nations mission in Western Sahara, the Security Council will continue discussing options next week for a resolution to extend the operation's authorization, the President of the 15-member body said today.

Speaking to reporters after the Council held a closed-door discussion on Western Sahara, Ambassador Jeremy Greenstock of the United Kingdom said the members were coming to the conclusion that a complex resolution covering the four options put forward by Secretary-General Kofi Annan in February may not be the way to move forward.

The first of those courses of action 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 would be to mandate Mr. Baker to discuss with interested parties a possible division of the Territory, and the fourth would see the Council terminate the UN Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara (MINURSO) due to the lack of progress.

Ambassador Greenstock said today that he "will try to make a proposal to the Council from the Presidency as to a more straightforward resolution to continue the mandate of MINURSO."

"The Council is unanimous that they want MINURSO to continue, and I believe that everybody on the Council subscribes to the principle that self-determination for the people of Western Sahara should be provided for," he added.

Earlier, the Council heard from William Lacy Swing, the Secretary-General's Special Representative for Western Sahara, who gave an update on developments on the ground before the Council's debate on a draft resolution got underway.

Ambassador Greenstock said the Council was "very firm" in calling for an improvement in the humanitarian situation in Western Sahara, particularly a continuation of the release of prisoners of war. "The Council remains very concerned that so many prisoners have been held for so long in poor conditions, many of them ill, it's time to separate out the issue of prisoners of war from the political situation," he said.

Meanwhile, the Council also made good progress in its talks today on resolutions to extend the mandates of the UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) and the UN Observer Mission in Georgia (UNOMIG), Ambassador Greenstock said.

The Council is slated to hold a private meeting on Monday with Georgia's Minister for the Abkhaz, Malkhaz Kakabadze, before continuing its informal consultations on the UNOMIG draft resolution, he added.