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Last Updated: Wednesday, 23 June, 2004, 13:15 GMT 14:15 UK
UN 'standing firm' on W Sahara
The United Nations' special representative for Western Sahara, Alvaro de Soto
The UN have been seeking a solution in Western Sahara for the last 13 years
The new UN special representative for Western Sahara, Alvaro de Soto, has said that he will pursue the same policy as his predecessor.

The UN-backed plan includes a referendum on self-determination for the Western Saharan people.

The territory has been at the centre of a bitter dispute since former colonial power Spain pulled out in 1975 and neighbouring Morocco invaded.

The Algerian-backed Polisario Front has been seeking independence.

Frustration

Former UN mediator James Baker resigned earlier this month saying that he had done all that he could in the conflict between Western Sahara and Morocco

He was reported to have grown increasingly frustrated over his failure to broker an agreement.


Mr Baker's latest proposal was to make Western Sahara a semi-autonomous part of Morocco for four to five years.

A referendum was to follow allowing Saharawis and Moroccans from the north who settled in the 1970s to choose between independence, continued semi-autonomy or integration with Morocco.

The Polisario rebels accepted the plan last July, but it was rejected by Morocco, which refused to accept any loss of sovereignty over the area.

The vast north-west African territory is rich in phosphates and is also believed to have offshore oil reserves.

The UN has spent more than $600m on peacekeeping efforts in Western Sahara as it has attempted to resolve the issue over the last 13 years.


SEE ALSO:
Baker quits Western Sahara role
12 Jun 04  |  Africa
UN in new bid for W Sahara peace
22 Jan 04  |  Africa
'Africa's last colony'
21 Oct 03  |  Africa


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