Annan urges Morocco to accept peace plan for Western Sahara

20 October 2003 –

United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan today urged Morocco to accept a peace plan for the Western Sahara, but agreed to a Moroccan request for more time to study the proposals. He also recommended an extension for the UN mission there.

In a report to the Security Council circulated today, Mr. Annan says, "I urge Morocco to seize the opportunity and positively engage in the process and implementing the plan."

The plan submitted by the Secretary-General's Personal Envoy, James Baker, earlier this year, calls for a referendum on the area's future. The Popular Front for the Liberation of Saguia el-Hamra and Rio de Oro (Frente POLISARIO) accepted the plan on 6 July. The Moroccans have sent objections to the Secretary-General.

In his report, Mr. Annan notes that in September Morocco sent a high-level negotiating team to Houston to meet with Mr. Baker, and had asked for additional time to study the proposals.

Mr. Annan agreed to the time extension and says he hopes to receive Morocco's response before the end of the calendar year.

Mr. Annan also recommends that the UN Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara (MINURSO) should have its mandate extended for three months, to 31 January 2004. The mandate is due to expire 31 October. The Security Council is scheduled to turn its attention to Western Sahara next Monday.

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