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Annan recommends 2-month extension for UN mission in Western Sahara

Annan recommends 2-month extension for UN mission in Western Sahara

Seeking to give the parties more time to consider a proposal for a political solution to the situation in Western Sahara, Secretary-General Kofi Annan postponed his latest report on the matter and proposed a two-month mandate extension for the United Nations mission responsible for organizing a referendum for the territory.

In a letter to the Security Council released today, the Secretary-General requests the technical rollover of the UN Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara (MINURSO) to enable the parties to submit their views on the latest round of consultations held in the region with his Personal Envoy, James Baker III. In late January, the Council had extended the mandate through 31 March, and asked Mr. Annan to report on the situation in the territories by 17 March.

The “Peace plan for self-determination for the people of Western Sahara,” which provides for a political solution to the regional conflict and self-determination, was submitted in mid-January to the leaders of Morocco, Algeria and Mauritania and representatives of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Saguia el-Hamra and Rio de Oro (POLISARIO Front).

Mr. Baker indicated to the parties and neighbouring countries that their replies should be submitted to him by early March, in order to give sufficient time to assess them and provide the Secretary-General with views on possible ways to move the process forward for the Western Sahara, according to Mr. Annan’s letter.

“To date, not all the parties have provided their views on the proposal of my Personal Envoy,” Mr. Annan says, proposing – along with the extension of MINURSO – to defer his report to the Council until 19 May in order to give all sides time to respond.

Morocco and the POLISARIO Front have contested the Territory since Spain relinquished control in 1974. MINURSO was established in 1991 to oversee the holding of a referendum in which the people of Western Sahara would choose between independence and integration with Morocco, as part of the UN Settlement Plan.

The Council is expected to take up the situation in Western Sahara next Tuesday.