The Security Council this morning approved the deployment of the engineering unit for demining activities and additional administrative staff to support the deployment of military personnel for the United Nations Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara (MINURSO) as proposed by the Secretary- General in his report of 13 November 1997.
The Secretary-General's report includes a detailed plan, timetable and financial implications for the holding of the referendum to enable the people of Western Sahara to chose freely between independence and integration with Morocco. The referendum will be held in accordance with the settlement plan and agreements reached by the Moroccan Government and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Saguia el-Hamra and Rio de Oro (POLISARIO).
Annex II of the report proposes the dates of 1 February to 30 March for the phase-in of additional administrative staff; the engineering unit would be deployed from 1 to 14 February.
Unanimously adopting resolution (1148) 1998, the Council expressed its intention to consider positively the Secretary-General's request for additional military and civilian police assets for MINURSO as soon as he reported that the identification process had reached a stage which made the deployment essential.
Further, the Council called on both parties to cooperate with the Secretary-General's Special Representative for the Western Sahara and to cooperate further with the Identification Commission established under the settlement plan so that the identification process could be completed in a timely fashion. The Identification Commission is processing potential voters for the referendum.
The meeting, which was called to order at 11:19 a.m., was adjourned at 11:22 a.m.
The text of resolution 1148 (1998) reads as follows:
"The Security Council,
"Recalling all its previous resolutions on the question of Western Sahara, and in particular its resolution 1133 (1997) of 20 October 1997 in which it decided to extend the mandate of the United Nations Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara (MINURSO) until 20 April 1998 and to increase its size in accordance with the recommendation of the Secretary-General contained in his report of 25 September 1997 (S/1997/742 and Add.1),
"Having considered the report of the Secretary-General of 13 November 1997 (S/1997/882 and Add.1) which contains a detailed plan, a timetable and financial implications for the increase in the strength of MINURSO,
"Welcoming the letter of the Secretary-General of 12 December 1997 (S/1997/974) which inter alia records the resumption of the identification of eligible voters in accordance with the Settlement Plan and the agreements reached between the parties for its implementation, and the report of the Secretary-General of 15 January 1998 (S/1998/35) which inter alia records progress made since the resumption of the identification process,
"Welcoming also the appointment of the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Western Sahara,
"1. Approves the deployment of the engineering unit required for demining activities and of the additional administrative staff required to support the deployment of military personnel as proposed in Annex II of the report of the Secretary-General of 13 November 1997;
"2. Expresses its intention to consider positively the request for the remaining additional military and civilian police assets for MINURSO as proposed in Annex II of the report of the Secretary-General of 13 November 1997, as soon as the Secretary-General reports that the identification process has reached a stage which makes the deployment of these assets essential;
"3. Calls upon both parties to cooperate with the Special Representative of the Secretary-General and to cooperate further with the Identification Commission established pursuant to the Settlement Plan in order that the identification process can be completed in a timely fashion in accordance with the Settlement Plan and the agreements reached between the parties for its implementation;
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"4. Requests the Secretary-General to keep the Security Council fully informed of further developments in the implementation of the Settlement Plan;
"5. Decides to remain seized of the matter."
When the Security Council met this morning, it had before it the Secretary-General's report on the situation in Western Sahara (document S/1998/35). It covers recent developments in the identification of potential voters for the referendum to enable the people of Western Sahara to choose between independence and integration with Morocco. The report also covers other matters related to the Settlement Plan, under which, the United Nations, in cooperation with the Organization of African Unity (OAU), will organize and conduct the referendum.
In his report, the Secretary-General appeals for Council and General Assembly support to maintain the overall objective of holding the referendum by the end of this year. He says that until the number of non-convoked persons presenting themselves is certain, it will be impossible to confirm that the identification process can be concluded by the end of May to permit the start of the transitional period on 7 June as planned.
Nevertheless, to keep the momentum, the Secretary-General is convinced that the plan and timetable for the referendum, outlined in his report of 13 November 1997 (S/1997/882), should be adhered to as strictly as possible. That will require continued commitment and cooperation by the parties -- the Moroccan Government and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Saguia el- Hamra and Rio de Oro (POLISARIO) -- as well as resources for demining and to prepare for the deployment of the military component of MINURSO.
As funds have not been available for the deployment of the engineering unit, demining activities will not commence in February as planned, thus affecting the timely deployment of MINURSO's military component and other elements of the implementation plan, the Secretary-General observes.
The identification process resumed on 3 December 1997 with the full participation of observers from the two parties and the OAU. The report notes that both parties have maintained a positive and collaborative approach. They agreed on the comprehensive list of tribal leaders required to provide oral testimony during identification and it was published on 20 December 1997.
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According to the report, between 28 August 1994, when the process was launched, and December 1995, when it came to a standstill, 77,058 persons were convoked and 60,112 identified. The weekly rate tripled between 3 December 1997 and 10 January, with 18,688 persons convoked and 13,227 identified. Nevertheless, completing the process by 31 May will be a daunting and arduous task, involving the convocation and identification of more than 100,000 applicants in less than five months. It will require continued commitment by the parties and a resolution of issues related to tribal groupings H41, H61 and J51/52.
Under the Houston agreements signed in September 1997, the two parties agreed they would not sponsor for identification anyone from those tribal groupings other than persons identified in the 1974 census and their immediate family members. They also agreed not to actively prevent individuals from such tribal groupings from presenting themselves and that their identification should proceed as soon as possible. During subsequent identification sessions, Frente POLISARIO protested that Morocco was in breach of the Houston agreements with respect to the sponsorship of non-convoked individuals.
The Secretary-General has decided to instruct MINURSO to proceed, as soon as possible, with the identification of unconvoked individuals who presented themselves on the convocation days for their respective tribal groups. Given the large numbers of applicants from non-contested tribes resident in northern Morocco, identification sessions -- initially scheduled for them in the south at Tan Tan and Goulemine -- will now be held at the two northern locations of El Kelaa des Sraghna and Sidi Kacem, where their numbers exceed 10,000. The Secretary-General is counting on the cooperation of the two parties to ensure that those arrangements proceed smoothly.
The Identification Commission is now at two-thirds strength, the report notes. The weekly identification rate is scheduled to increase in January and again from February to May to complete the programme by the end of May as planned. That is conceivable only if a full complement of appropriately qualified staff is in place by the end of January and if there are no interruptions.
In reviewing other matters, the report notes the direct contribution of civilian police officers to various identification activities. To prepare for the transitional period, they have established working groups to identify operational needs and coordinate logistics for the expected influx of personnel. Currently, 79 officers, including the Civil Police Commissioner, are assigned to MINURSO. Two other officers are expected in January to bring the police component to its full strength of 81, as planned.
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MINURSO's military component monitors the 1991 ceasefire between the Royal Moroccan Army and the Frente POLISARIO forces. According to the report, there are no significant indications that either side intends to resume hostilities in the near future and they have both been cooperative with military observers. The Force Commander has reached a new military agreement with the two parties, which covers the time until the start of the transitional period. It also defines the duties of United Nations military observers. Preparation continues for the full deployment of MINURSO's military component and fulfilment of its mandate. The military force will remain within the overall ceiling of 1,850, although the numerical balance of various elements might be adjusted for operational, logistic or budgetary reasons.
The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) is preparing for the repatriation of Saharan refugees as foreseen in the Secretary- General's timetable, the report notes. The UNHCR plan of action has been updated to finalize the special appeal for funds and was presented to the European Community Humanitarian Organization for fund-raising and coordination.
The revised MINURSO budget, which provides for additional payments of $17,489,100 gross to enable it to proceed with its identification tasks pursuant to Council resolution 1133 (1997), has been finalized and is expected to be issued shortly. Pending the Assembly's consideration of the budget, the Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions (ACABQ) has advised the Secretary-General to enter into commitments of $9.3 million gross to meet essential and immediate requirements for the identification process for the period ending 31 March.
As of 31 December 1997, unpaid assessed contributions to the MINURSO special account for the period since its inception until 31 December 1997 were $48.9 million. The total outstanding assessed contributions for all United Nations peacekeeping operations as of that date was $1.574 billion.
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