News / Africa

US Compromise Paves Way for Extended UN Mission in W. Sahara

Moroccans protest against U.S.-backed plans to broaden the mandate of UN peacekeepers in disputed Western Sahara, Casablanca, April 22, 2013.
Moroccans protest against U.S.-backed plans to broaden the mandate of UN peacekeepers in disputed Western Sahara, Casablanca, April 22, 2013.
Reuters
The United States has dropped demands for human rights observers in Western Sahara, diplomats said on Tuesday, paving the way for a compromise that would allow the U.N. mission in the disputed territory to be extended for another year.
        
Western Sahara, a tract of desert the size of Britain that has lucrative phosphate reserves and potentially offshore oil, is the focus of Africa's longest-running territorial dispute, between Morocco and pro-independence Polisario guerrillas.

A U.S.-drafted resolution that proposed installing United Nations peacekeepers to monitor human rights abuses had angered Morocco, and taken its traditional protector France by surprise.

"There will be a resolution very soon for a new mandate of the MINURSO," French Foreign Ministry spokesman Philippe Lalliot told reporters, referring to the mission's acronym. "We are close to a solution that will satisfy everybody."

Lalliot declined to comment on the details of the resolution, which was due to be voted on April 25. But three Western diplomats said Washington had withdrawn the demand after its resolution was reviewed by a group of countries including the United States, France, Spain, Britain and Russia.

"The Moroccans will be satisfied," said one diplomat.

A U.N. Security Council diplomat said that the draft resolution contained more human rights language than previous years, describing it as a "step forward."

It encourages enhanced efforts and progress on human rights, but does not propose that U.N. peacekeepers monitor them, said the diplomat, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

The United States' U.N. mission had no immediate comment.

The dispute dates back to 1975 and pits Morocco, which asserts that the region to its south is part of its territory, against the Algeria-backed Polisario Front movement. Morocco holds about 80 percent of the territory and the Polisario the rest, including refugee camps.

Europe and the United States say their worry is that the conflict is souring relations between Morocco and Algeria and preventing them from working together against Islamist violence.

While allegations of abuse have lessened since a 1975-1991 war, rights groups like Amnesty International accuse Morocco of continuing to use excessive force against demonstrators and activists and repressing political freedom, among other abuses.
        
Morocco and France, its former colonial ruler, have resisted the idea of peacekeepers reporting on rights abuses in Western Sahara, and Paris has long supported Rabat's position due to historical and business relations.

The United Nations brokered a ceasefire settlement in 1991 between Morocco and the Polisario with the understanding that a referendum would be held on the region's fate. But the referendum never took place and attempts to reach a lasting deal have foundered.

A Moroccan official, who confirmed the latest U.N. draft would "encourage human rights", said he expected Algeria and Polisario allies to lobby for changes in the next two days.

A senior Polisario official told Reuters the group was struggling to prevent its youth from taking up arms after seeing years of failed talks and ongoing rights abuses.

"This [compromise] is a big mistake that shows to the Sahrawis that their pacifism isn't leading to anything. It's a shame," said Paris-based Omar Mansour, a member of the Polisario's National Secretariat decision-making body.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has warned that the conflict in Mali, where France deployed troops and air power to oust Islamist rebels, threatens to spill into Western Sahara.

You May Like

Obama: Alaskans Feel Signs of Climate Change

Alaskans experiencing bigger storm surges as sea ice melts, more frequent and extensive wildfires, deteriorating glaciers, and swift shoreline erosion More

Katrina Brought Enduring Changes to New Orleans

The city’s recovery is the result of the people and culture the city is famous for, as well as newcomers and start-up industries More

Magical Photo Slides Show Native Americans in Late 1800s

Walter McClintock spent 20 years photographing the Blackfoot Indians and their vanishing culture at the dawn of the modern age More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: Algerian American from: Algiers
April 25, 2013 4:49 AM
Good news that the US envoy has put human rights on the agenda.
But the USA should stick to their guns and not be swayed by the small narco state of Morocco.


Morocco is one of the largest drug producers in the world, and their monarch is nothing but a drug king pin and a murderer. The people of Western Sahara should be allowed to vote for independence in a free and transparent referendum. If not they WILL resort to war. The United States of America should uphold the sacred values of freedom and human rights and never give up.
In Response

by: ex guerrier des sables from: moon
April 26, 2013 12:36 AM
1963!!!!! i think you should read about what s happened to your grand parents in 1963( la guerre des sables),,,,a seconde version of this war will freed algerian people from being slaves to the military. besides ,our hearts are with the free kabily country

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalatesi
X
August 27, 2015 2:08 AM
Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Is China's Economic Data Accurate?

Some investors say China's wild stock market gyrations have been made worse by worries about the reliability of that nation's economic data. And some critics say the reports can mislead investors by painting an unrealistically-strong picture of the economy. A key China scholar says Beijing is not fudging ((manipulating)) the numbers, but that the economy is evolving quickly from smoke-stack industries to services, and the ways of tracking new economic activity are falling behind the change. V
Video

Video Next to Iran, Climate at Forefront of Obama Agenda

President Barack Obama this week announced new initiatives aimed at making it easier for Americans to access renewable energy sources such as solar and wind. Obama is not slowing down when it comes to pushing through climate change measures, an issue he says is the greatest threat to the country’s national security. VOA correspondent Aru Pande has more from the White House.
Video

Video Shipping Containers Provide Experimental Housing

Housing prices around the San Francisco Bay area are out of reach for many people, so some young entrepreneurs, artists and tech industry workers are creating their own houses using converted shipping containers. But as VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports from Oakland, the effort requires ingenuity and dealing with restrictive local laws.
Video

Video Arctic Draws International Competition for Oil

A new geopolitical “Great Game” is underway in earth’s northernmost region, the Arctic, where Russia has claimed a large area for resource development and President Barack Obama recently approved Shell Oil Company’s test-drilling project in an area under U.S. control. Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Philippine Maritime Police: Chinese Fishermen a Threat to Country’s Security

China and the Philippines both claim maritime rights in the South China Sea.  That includes the right to fish in those waters. Jason Strother reports on how the Philippines is catching Chinese nationals it says are illegal poachers. He has the story from Palawan province.
Video

Video Technique May Eliminate Drill-and-Fill Dental Care

Many people dread visiting dentists because they're afraid of drills. Now, however, a technology developed by a British firm promises to eliminate the need for mechanical cleaning of dental cavities by speeding a natural process of tooth repair. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video China's Spratly Island Building Said to Light Up the Night 'Like A City'

Southeast Asian countries claim China has illegally seized territory in the Spratly islands. It is especially a concern for a Philippine mayor who says Beijing is occupying parts of his municipality. Jason Strother reports from the capital of Palawan province, Puerto Princesa.
Video

Video Ages-old Ice Reveals Secrets of Climate Change

Ice caps don't just exist at the world's poles. There are also tropical ice caps, and the largest sits atop the Peruvian Andes - but it is melting, quickly, and may be gone within the next 20 years. George Putic reports scientists are now rushing to take samples to get at the valuable information about climate change locked in the ice.
Video

Video French Experiment in Integrating Roma Under Threat

Plans to destroy France’s oldest slum have sparked an outcry on the part of its Roma residents. As Lisa Bryant reports from the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, rights groups argue the community is a fledgling experiment on integrating Roma who are often outcasts in many parts of Europe.
Video

Video Kenyans Turn to Agriculture for Business

Each year Kenyan universities continue to churn out graduates for the job market despite the already existing high rate of unemployment among youth in the country. Some of these young men and women have realized that agriculture can be as rewarding as any other business or job, and they are resorting to agribusiness in large numbers as a way of tackling unemployment. Rael Ombuor reports for VOA.
Video

Video First Women Graduate Elite Army Ranger School

Two women are making history for the U.S. Army by proving they are among the toughest of the tough. VOA's Carla Babb reports from Fort Benning, Georgia as 94 men and those two women rise as graduates of the difficult Ranger school.

VOA Blogs