Both Morocco and Polisario want referendum to be held, Annan says
North Africa-Morocco-UN, Politics, 12/10/1998
United Nations Secretary-General, Kofi Annan, said on Thursday that Morocco and the Polisario Front confirmed their wish to go ahead with the referendum process that the U.N. plans to hold in the Sahara in December 1999.
"it is our responsibility to help the two parties to the Sahara issue (Morocco and the Polisario) to reach the path they want to follow," Annan told the London-based Asharq Al-Awsat daily.
He voiced hope that the U.N. would succeed in achieving this objective.
Annan toured in November North Africa in a bid to put on track again a much-delayed referendum, proposed in the 1980's by Rabat to determine whether the former Spanish colony sets up on its own as claimed by the Polisario, or be incorporated into Morocco.
Annan proposed his own arbitration to settle the issue of 65,000 Sahrawis, belonging to tribes that the Polisario refuses to identify as would-be voters in the referendum.
Touching on the outcome of his tour, Annan said he was not in a position to go into details "because we are still discussing some aspects with Morocco, and the U.N. officials are still in contact with Moroccan officials."
He added that he needs to know the outcome of these talks before making any decision regarding recommendations he would submit to the Security Council.
The U.N. Secretary-General said "there is no other way to settle the Sahara issue except the referendum, although several people believe the vote would never succeed."
Kofi Annan stressed belief that the Arab Maghreb region may form a "natural economic grouping" if the Sahara and Lockerbie issues are settled. He voiced hope that once these issues are resolved, the road will be open for more contacts and commercial cooperation among the North African countries.
Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Libya and Mauritania founded the Arab Maghreb Union (UMA) in 1989 in Marrakesh, Morocco. However, the union has been frozen, especially in view of Algeria's direct involvement in the Sahara issue.
Last Sunday, Algerian Prime Minister, Ahmed Ouyahia, said "Algeria maintains, at a high degree, its solidarity with brothers in (...) Western Sahara."
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