Algeria welcomes UN push for Western Sahara talks

ALGIERS (AFP) — Algeria's goverment on Friday welcomed a call by the UN Security Council for Morocco and the Polisario independence movement to resume talks on the future of Western Sahara "without pre-conditions."

"Algeria welcomes the renewed attachment of the UN Security Council to a just and fair solution that guarantees the people of Western Sahara their right to self-determination," Algeria's foreign ministry said in a statement.

The 15 Council members unanimously voted on Thursday to extend the mandate of a UN mission in Western Sahara (MINURSO) until April 2010.

Member countries call upon both sides "to continue negotiations under the auspices of the Secretary-General (Ban Ki-moon) without pre-conditions and in good faith," the council's latest resolution said.

The Polisario Front has disputed Morocco's claim to Western Sahara since Rabat annexed it in 1975 after former colonial power Spain withdrew.

The two sides agreed to a UN-brokered ceasefire in 1991, but a promised self-determination referendum never materialised.

Ban's envoy to Western Sahara, Christopher Ross, toured the north African region earlier this year, and returned to win UN backing for a plan to "hold small, informal talks in preparation for a fifth round of negotiations."

He concluded that the conditions were not yet appropriate for a fifth round of formal talks, following four sets without a breakthrough in Manhasset, a New York suburb.

Rabat has offered a form of autonomy for the territory under Moroccan sovereignty, while the Polisario wants a referendum on self-determination that would include the option of full independence.


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