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Friday, 31 August, 2001, 11:21 GMT 12:21 UK
Polisario mull UN peace plan
Polisario Front guerrillas
Polisario soldiers have been fighting for independence from Morocco
By David Bamford North Africa Correspondent

Representatives of the Polisario movement that is seeking independence for the Moroccan-controlled region of Western Sahara say they will give new United Nations proposals to their leadership for consideration.

Delegations from Polisario, Algeria and Mauritania have just ended three days of discussions on the proposals with the United Nations special envoy James Baker.

The meeting was held at Mr Baker's ranch in the American state of Wyoming.

The UN has taken it as a positive sign that the Polisario representatives at the talks did not reject the Baker plan outright.

Autonomy

The delegation from Algeria which gives strong support to the Polisario cause said it would be seeking further clarifications on the position of its own government and advising Mr Baker accordingly.

James Baker and Polisario Front
James Baker recently met Polisario leaders in Western Sahara
Until now, Polisario has been vehement that any plan that did not have a referendum of self-determination as its starting point would not even be worth consideration.

The details of the UN plan make it clear that a referendum, if there were to be one, would only take place after five years of Moroccan rule, during which the Western Sahara was given a degree of autonomy.

The UN says the referendum would include not only the original Sahari residents, but also the many Moroccan settlers who have moved into the region since Morocco occupied it in 1976, soon after the withdrawal of the Spanish colonial authority.

Two things might shift Polisario's strict position on the issue.

A higher level of political autonomy than has so far been stated and a restricted referendum.

But neither of these are likely to be easily accepted by Morocco.

See also:

19 Apr 00 | Media reports
Morocco's TV clampdown
07 Jan 01 | Africa
Polisario withdraw rally threat
17 Jun 00 | Africa
Annan meets Moroccan king
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