UN chief recommends additional extension of MINURSO mandate, a new referendum date
Morocco, Politics, 4/30/1999
U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan recommended to the Security Council an additional six-month extension of the MINURSO mandate, U.N mission supervising preparations for the holding of a referendum in the Sahara.
In a report released Thursday, the UN secretary general set July 2000 as a new date for the referendum and submitted a revised time-table for all operations related to the referendum. However, Annan linked the success of the revised timetable to the acceptance by the two sides (Morocco and the Polisario) of the package of proposals to resume the identification of potential voters in the referendum on June 1, 2000 and the appeals procedure one month later.
Initially scheduled for December 1999, the referendum would give persons of Sahrawi descent an opportunity to say whether they want the Sahara, a former Spanish colony retrieved by Morocco in 1975 under the Madrid accords, would stand on its own as claimed by the Algeria-backed Polisario movement or remain integrated within Morocco.
The issue of identification and appeals (of persons who were denied the right to be included in the voter lists) has been a major obstacle to the holding of the voting due to differences over the electorate. Annan had announced that with the identification of 165,000 potential voters belonging to non-contested tribes, the new identification would cover "contested tribes" to whom the Polisario is denying the right to vote.
Annan's report also briefed the Security Council on the latest discussions held at the UN head office in New York this April 12-23 on the revised protocol texts and a draft timetable of upcoming stages which was notified to the parties.
The UN secretary general also noted that the military situation on the ground is calm and that there are no indications that hostilities would resume. Annan also welcomes progress covered by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees in its talks with Morocco regarding the return of displaced persons.
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