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 But three Western diplomats said Washington had withdrawn the demand after its resolution was reviewed by a group of countries including the United States, France, Spain, Britain and Russia.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

Turkey's Controversial Reform Bill Giving Investors Jitters

Homeland security reform bill will give police new powers in search, seizure, detention and arrests, while restricting the rights of suspects, their attorneys More

Audio Slideshow In Kenyan Prison, Good Grades Are Path to Freedom

Some inmates who get high marks could see their sentences commuted to non-custodial status More

'Rumble in the Jungle' Turns 40

'The Champ' knocked Foreman out to regain crown he had lost 7 years earlier when US government accused him of draft-dodging and boxing officials revoked his license 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.
Victorious Secularists Face Challenge to Form Government in Tunisiai
X
Henry Ridgwell
October 30, 2014 11:39 PM
Official results from Tunisia show the Islamist Ennahda party has failed to win the second free election since the so-called "Arab Spring" uprising in 2011. Ennahda, which handed power to a government of technocrats pending the elections, lost out to the secular party Nidaa Tounes. Henry Ridgwell reports from London that the relatively peaceful poll offers some hope in a volatile region.
Video

Video Victorious Secularists Face Challenge to Form Government in Tunisia

Official results from Tunisia show the Islamist Ennahda party has failed to win the second free election since the so-called "Arab Spring" uprising in 2011. Ennahda, which handed power to a government of technocrats pending the elections, lost out to the secular party Nidaa Tounes. Henry Ridgwell reports from London that the relatively peaceful poll offers some hope in a volatile region.
Video

Video Africa Tells its Story Through Fashion

In Africa, Fashion Week is a riot of colors, shapes, patterns and fabrics - against the backdrop of its ongoing struggle between nature and its fast-growing urban edge. How do these ideas translate into needle and thread? VOA’s Anita Powell visited this year’s Mercedes Benz Fashion Week Africa in Johannesburg to find out.
Video

Video Smugglers Offer Cheap Passage From Turkey to Syria

Smugglers in Turkey offer a relatively cheap passage across the border into Syria. Ankara has stepped up efforts to stem the flow of foreign fighters who want to join Islamic State militants fighting for control of the Syrian border city of Kobani. But porous borders and border guards who can be bribed make illegal border crossings quite easy. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video China Political Meeting Seeks to Improve Rule of Law

China’s communist leaders will host a top level political meeting this week, called the Fourth Plenum, and for the first time in the party’s history, rule of law will be a key item on the agenda. Analysts and Chinese media reports say the meetings could see the approval of long-awaited measures aimed at giving courts more independence and include steps to enhance an already aggressive and high-reaching anti-corruption drive. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rules

European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video Kobani Refugees Welcome, Turkey Criticizes, US Airdrop

Residents of Kobani in northern Syria have welcomed the airdrop of weapons, ammunition and medicine to Kurdish militia who are resisting the seizure of their city by Islamic State militants. The Turkish government, however, has criticized the operation. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from southeastern Turkey, across the border from Kobani.

All About America

AppleAndroid