Security Council extends peacekeeping mandate in Western Sahara until next April

Calling for more contributions to help re-unite families separated during the conflict in Western Sahara, the Security Council today extended the mandate of the United Nations Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara (MINURSO) there until next April.The Security Council requested a report from the Secretary-General Kofi Annan on the situation in the territory before the 30 April end of the extended mandate and asked that Mr. Annan’s Personal Envoy for Western Sahara, Peter van Walsum, brief the Council on his progress within three months of the adoption of the resolution.Mr. Annan had requested a six-month extension of the mission, citing continued instability in Western Sahara stemming from the political impasse between the Moroccan Government, which claims the former Spanish colony, and the Frente POLISARIO independence movement, as well as the continued violations of their military agreement and alleged human rights abuses.The 14-year-old UN mission has been monitoring a ceasefire between the two sides and is seeking to organize a referendum on the territory’s future status.The Council made its decisions noting “the POLISARIO Front’s 18 August 2005 release of the remaining 404 Moroccan prisoners of war in compliance with international humanitarian law, and calling upon the parties to continue to cooperate with the International Committee of the Red Cross to resolve the fate of persons who are unaccounted for since the beginning of the conflict.”After meeting with national leaders in Algiers, Mauritania and Morocco earlier this month, Mr. van Walsum said the parties in the region were “quasi-irreconcilable.” read more