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Security Council Urges Morocco to Support Western Sahara Peace Plan - 2003-07-31

The U.N. Security Council adopted a resolution Thursday supporting a peace plan for Western Sahara. But Morocco continues to oppose the measure.

The U.S. resolution "strongly supports" the efforts of former U.S. Secretary of State James Baker, now the secretary-general's special envoy to Western Sahara.

In the words of the unanimously adopted resolution, the 15-member Security Council "supports" Mr. Baker's peace plan "for self-determination of the people of Western Sahara as an optimum political solution."

The plan would make disputed territory a semi-autonomous part of Morocco for about five years. Then residents would choose, in a referendum, whether to integrate with Morocco, remain semi-autonomous or become independent.

Security Council president, Spanish Ambassador Inocencio Arias, says the Security Council resolution does not impose a solution. Rather, it urges the parties to take the Baker proposal seriously.

"The Council is fully backing and supporting the plan and telling the parties that this is an historic occasion to try to solve the problem based on the Baker Plan," he said. "The Baker Plan is a balanced and fair plan and that is what the council has said."

Mr. Arias noted that that the Security Council will revisit the issue if Morocco fails to comply with the proposal.

Morocco seized the phosphates-rich territory in 1976 after it won independence from Spain. Western Sahara's Independence movement, the Polisario Front, has backed the new United Nations plan, but Morocco continues to oppose the measure.

Moroccan Ambassador Mohamed Bennouna says his country feels no additional pressure to follow the Baker Plan.

"No. We think that now, it is to the personal envoy of the secretary-General to try to [bridge] the gap between the parties," he said.

The Security Council also renewed its mission to Western Sahara until the end of October.