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UN Security Council 'Deplores' Western Sahara Violence

  • Margaret Besheer

The U.N. Security Council has deplored last week's deadly clashes in Western Sahara, but has not said it will agree to a request from the pro-independence Polisario Front for a U.N. investigation into the violence.

The 15-member Security Council had private briefings Tuesday from the U.N.'s department on peacekeeping and the Secretary-General's personal envoy for Western Sahara, Christopher Ross.

Afterwards, the council expressed its condemnation of the recent deaths and injuries during a raid on a protest camp city outside the Western Saharan city of Laayoune. It reaffirmed its support for the U.N. mission in Western Sahara, known as MINURSO, and urged the parties to demonstrate further political will towards a solution. But the statement stopped short of calling for a U.N. or independent investigation into the violence.

Ugandan Ambassador Ruhakana Rugunda, who holds a non-permanent seat on the council, told reporters that his country would like to see a fact-finding mission dispatched.

"The Ugandan delegation would like to see facts established by the United Nations or any other independent force, so that the world, the humanitarian agencies and all those concerned, can know the extent of the problem and how to deal with it," said Ruhakana Rugunda.

He said Uganda would also like to see full access granted to humanitarian organizations, and he criticized the lack of a human rights monitoring component to the U.N. Mission. MINURSO is the only U.N. mission to not have such a component, despite past attempts by some Security Council members to enlarge the mission's mandate to include one. Morocco is strongly opposed to such a component, and critics say its ally, veto-wielding Security Council member France, has blocked the addition of a human rights component to the mission.

Morocco's U.N. Ambassador Mohammed Loulichki told reporters his government has nothing to hide and would share all of its information on the recent violence with MINURSO.

But Ahmed Boukhari, the representative of the Polisario Front, said the Moroccan government is not credible and the Polisario would continue to ask for an independent investigation.

"We say that, in any case, the conclusion of the debate, even deploring what has happened is not enough," said Ahmed Boukhari. "We would like to continue to ask the Security Council members to allow a full investigation of what has happened. We believe - Polisario - the information we have gathered is indicating that a huge tragedy took place in Western Sahara."

The Polisario says dozens of people were killed in the raid, but Morocco says the death toll was much lower, and includes 10 members of its security forces.

The United Nations has been seeking a settlement in Western Sahara since the withdrawal of Spain in 1976, and fighting ensued between Morocco and the Polisario Front, supported by Algeria. Morocco has offered Western Sahara autonomy, but the Polisario says it wants a referendum on self-determination, with independence as an option.

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