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Bakassi Handover Delayed Until September - 2004-04-09


The handover of the disputed Bakassi Peninsula from Nigeria to Cameroon has been postponed until September. But a U-N mediator says all possible efforts will be made to stick to the new timetable.

The two countries agreed to the postponement at a meeting of their joint commission in Cameroon's capital, Yaounde.

The French news agency (AFP) quotes the U-N special envoy to the commission, Ahmedou Ould Abdallah, as saying the talks were particularly difficult, after Nigeria requested the delay. But he says Cameroon eventually accepted the Nigerian proposal. He said the commission will do everything it can to ensure that the new timetable is implemented.

According to a joint statement, the Nigerian withdrawal from the Bakassi Peninsula will begin in July and end by September 15th.

The original timetable for the handover called for the removal of the Nigerian administration and its military forces from Bakassi by May.

The International Court of Justice awarded the swampy area in the Gulf of Guinea to Cameroon in 2002. The ruling also awarded Nigeria several villages that had previously been controlled by Cameroon.

More than 30 villages have already been exchanged, but Nigeria has been delaying on the handover of the Bakassi Peninsula.

Most of the people who live in the area consider themselves Nigerian. The area's main industry is fishing, but it is believed to have potentially large oil reserves. When the mixed commission visited the area in February, many local leaders told them they did not want to be ruled by Cameroon.

The mixed commission is due to meet again in the Nigerian capital, Abuja, on the first of June.

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