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Last Updated: Thursday, 29 April, 2004, 23:16 GMT 00:16 UK
UN pushes for W Sahara settlement
Sahrawi children
Generations of local Sahrawi people have known nothing but conflict
The UN Security Council has adopted a resolution urging Morocco and the Polisario Front rebels to accept a UN-backed peace plan for Western Sahara.

The plan would give the territory immediate self-government followed within five years by a referendum on its independence from Morocco.

The Polisario have agreed to the plan, but Morocco has rejected it.

The UN resolution also renewed for a further six months the mandate of the peacekeepers in Western Sahara.

The council voted unanimously for an extension of the UN's 230-strong mission of military observers and troops until 31 October, although UN Secretary General Kofi Annan had earlier asked for 10 months.

"I hope that during this period the parties will reflect on the very long time that has elapsed since the beginning of this conflict," Mr Annan said in a report to the council.

He called on both parties in the conflict to support the peace plan, drafted by the UN envoy, James Baker.

The peacekeeping mission has cost the UN about $600m since fighting between Morocco and the Polisario ended in 1991.

The council said budgetary constraints were the main reason for the reduced term.

The Polisario rebels, which seeks independence for the mineral-reach territory, accepted the plan last July.

Morocco continues to oppose the plan, and earlier this month it again ruled out eventual sovereignty for the territory.

Western Sahara was seized by Morocco and Mauritania in 1975 after the colonial power, Spain, pulled out.

Fighting erupted the following year, and Morocco took over the whole Western Sahara after Mauritania withdrew in 1979.

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