26 March 2003

Press Statement on Western Sahara by Security Council President

NEW YORK, 25 March (UN Headquarters) -- Following is the press statement on Western Sahara delivered today by Security Council President Mamady Traoré (Guinea):

The members of the Security Council stated that they intend to extend the mandate of the United Nations Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara (MINURSO) to 31 May 2003 in order to give the Personal Envoy of the Secretary-General of the United Nations sufficient time to evaluate the parties' responses to his proposal.

The members of the Security Council welcomed the recent release of prisoners of war by the Popular Front for the Liberation of Saguia el-Hamra and Rio de Oro (POLISARIO). They recalled, however, that all prisoners of war still in detention should be released without further delay, in accordance with paragraph 5 of resolution 1429 (2002) and international humanitarian law.

The members of the Security Council requested the two parties to continue to cooperate with the efforts of the International Committee of the Red Cross to solve the problem of the fate of all persons who have disappeared since the beginning of the conflict.

The members of the Security Council expressed their concern at the humanitarian situation of persons and populations affected by this ongoing crisis.

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