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 Monday, 20 January, 2003, 16:01 GMT
UN Sahara peace plan rejected
Tent city in Western Sahara
The disputed territory is about the size of Britain

The independence movement for Western Sahara, the Polisario Front, has rejected the latest United Nations plan for a solution to end more than 25 years of conflict.

SAHARA CONFLICT
Colonial power Spain left in 1975
Morocco controls most of the territory
Polisario Front wants independence
Independence recognised by African Union
UN force keeping peace since 1991 ceasefire
200,000 refugees live in Algeria
The Algerian-backed Polisario said the latest proposals, put forward last week by UN special envoy James Baker, offered nothing new.

The Polisario Front, which fought a bitter guerrilla war with Morocco from 1976 until a UN ceasefire in 1991, says it cannot accept any plan which does not offer the Saharawi people self-determination.

The full details of Mr Baker's proposals have not been revealed, but the Polisario says it is no different from the one he put forward in 2001.

Independence demands

That offered the territory autonomy under Moroccan sovereignty for a period of five years, after which a referendum would be held on its final status.

It was ambiguous what the options would be, whether iot would include independence or a choice between the continuation of autonomy or full integration into Morocco.

And a major sticking point then for the Polisario was who would be eligible to vote.

It seems Mr Baker's latest proposals, which are still being studied by Morocco, have not offered the Polisario an attractive enough autonomy deal to persuade it to abandon its demand for a referendum on independence.

But that is a difficult option for the UN to pursue, since Morocco has said it will never give up the territory which it effectively controls.

Meanwhile about 100,000 Saharawi refugees who fled Western Sahara in 1975, still live in the Polisario's camps in Algeria, along with more than 1,000 Moroccan prisoners of war.

The Polisario has been under a ceasefire since 1991.

See also:

14 Jan 03 | Africa
31 Jul 02 | Africa
01 Mar 01 | Africa
27 Jan 99 | Africa
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