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UN defends new proposal

A new UN proposal on Western Sahara has been described by its proponents as an attempt to facilitate negotiations and end the conflict.

“We are not asking in this proposal that anyone give up anything,” James Baker III, the Secretary-General’s Personal Envoy for Western Sahara, told reporters after briefing the Security Council on Tuesday. “We are asking that the parties are willing to come to the table and talk.”

Morocco annexed Western Sahara after the former colonial power, Spain, pulled out of the territory in 1975.
The POLISARIO front subsequently took up arms to seek independence for the territory, which it calls the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic (SADR) and which is recognised by the Organisation of African Unity.

Under UN mediation, both sides had agreed to a referendum that would allow the Sahrawi to choose between independence and Moroccan rule, but differences over who is eligible to vote have stalled the process for years.

UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan said on Friday that the plan would allow the people of Western Sahara the right to elect their own executive and legislative bodies and to have exclusive competence over local government and a range of economic, legal and social affairs. It provides for a referendum on the final status of the territory within five years.

News organisations have reported that under the new autonomy plan rejected by POLISARIO and accepted by Morocco, defence, foreign affairs and the currency would remain under Moroccan control.

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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