31 January 2003

Security Council Extends Western Sahara Mission until 31 March, Unanimously Adopting Resolution 1463 (2003)

Allows Time for Parties to Consider Proposal Presented by Secretary-General's Personal Envoy

NEW YORK, 30 January (UN Headquarters) -- The Security Council today extended the mandate of the United Nations Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara (MINURSO) until 31 March, in order to give the parties time to consider a proposal of the Secretary-General for a political solution.

Unanimously adopting resolution 1463 (2003), the Council approved the two-month technical rollover of the Mission to enable the parties to consider the proposal presented to them earlier this month by the Secretary-General's Personal Envoy, James Baker III. The proposal provides for self-determination, as requested by the Council in resolution 1429 (2002). The present text requests the Secretary-General to report on the situation by 17 March.

Morocco and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Saguia el-Hamra and Rio de Oro (POLISARIO Front) have contested the Territory since Spain relinquished control in 1974. The MINURSO was established in 1991 to oversee the holding of a referendum in which the people of Western Sahara would choose between independence and integration with Morocco, as part of the United Nations Settlement Plan.

The referendum process has been stalled for years, due to appeals in the voter-identification process and other problems. Humanitarian problems, including those of refugees, missing persons and long-unrepatriated prisoners of war, persist.

The meeting began at 12:32 p.m. and was adjourned at 12:35 p.m.


The full text of resolution 1463 (2003) reads, as follows:

"The Security Council,

"Reaffirming all its previous resolutions on Western Sahara, in particular resolution 1429 (2002) of 30 July 2002,

"1. Decides to extend the mandate of the United Nations Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara (MINURSO) until 31 March 2003 in order to give the parties time to consider the proposal presented to them by the Personal Envoy of the Secretary-General;

"2. Requests the Secretary-General to provide a report on the situation by 17 March 2003;

"3. Decides to remain seized of the matter."


The Secretary-General's report on the situation in the Western Sahara dated 16 January (document S/2003/59) covers developments since his previous report of 19 April 2002.

The report notes that the Secretary-General's Personal Envoy, James A. Baker III, was scheduled to visit the region from 14 through 17 January to present to the parties and neighbouring countries a proposal for a political solution of the conflict, which provides for self-determination as requested by the Council in its resolution 1429 (2002). To give the parties time to consider the proposal, he recommends a technical rollover of the mandate of the United Nations Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara (MINURSO) for two months, until 31 March.

The Secretary-General recalls that the Council has asked him to provide a report before the end of the present mandate of MINURSO on 31 January, including any further proposals, together with recommendations pertaining to the most appropriate configuration of MINURSO. On the basis of Mr. Baker's visit, he was to provide the Council their views of the options available to it with respect to that conflict.

He notes that the Council and the United Nations have worked diligently for nearly two decades to assist the parties to find a solution. Mr. Baker has dedicated nearly six years to this effort, and every possible option has been presented to the parties aimed at reaching a solution. Obviously, the responsibility for a positive culmination of these efforts must now rest solely with the parties.

As the parties consider the proposals presented by the Personal Envoy, the Secretary-General urges them to keep in mind the years of suffering by thousands of innocent people in the Territory, the refugee camps and those who remain prisoners of war. At a time when the United Nations is facing many other pressing concerns regarding the maintenance of international peace and security, the parties should demonstrate statesmanship and seize this new opportunity to provide the people of Western Sahara a chance for a better life.

The report states that during this roll-over period, the United Nations will continue to do all it can to address the humanitarian requirements of the refugees and to work with the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) to address the urgent plight of the prisoners of war.

The Secretary-General calls on the international community to provide the resources necessary to the World Food Programme (WFP) and the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) to cover the refugee food requirements. He also strongly urges the parties to release, without further delay, those who have been held for so long in contravention of basic international humanitarian law, and to embark on confidence-building measures to alleviate the considerable suffering.

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