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Release all prisoners, says US government

The United States government has hailed the recent release of prisoners by the Popular Front for the Liberation of Saguia el-Hamra and Rio de Oro (Polisario Front), but called for the release of all prisoners in the Western Sahara conflict.

On Thursday, the 115 prisoners, who were released earlier this month, were repatriated by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), aboard a chartered aircraft and handed over to Moroccan authorities. They included the longest-held Moroccan prisoner, captured in 1975.

In a State Department statement on Thursday, the US said it would like Polisario and Morocco, to work with the UN to resolve the conflict. The release of the prisoners, the statement added, was a positive move towards fulfilling international humanitarian law.

"We have seen positive developments in the dispute, including efforts by Morocco to account for Sahrawis missing. US calls on all parties to respect international human rights law and release or account for all those missing or held prisoner, as called for by UN Security Council Resolution 1359," the statement said.

ICRC, which in December 2000 repatriated another 201 prisoners, also said it "remains concerned about the plight of the 1,362 Moroccans still held captive and calls for the release of all prisoners".

UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, on 14 January also called for the release of all prisoners in the 27 year-old conflict over Western Sahara, between Polisario- which wants self-rule for Western Sahara- and Morocco, which took over when Spain left the colony in 1975.

This article was produced by IRIN News while it was part of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Please send queries on copyright or liability to the UN. For more information: https://shop.un.org/rights-permissions

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