Letter from the Secretary-General addressed to the President of the Security Council, (S/1997/974)
In its report the S.G. makes an abstract of the events of the last 2 months. On 14 November, both parties received complete lists of all persons remaining to be convoked. On 17 November, final convocation lists for the first four weeks of the resumed identification process were sent out. The identification process resumed on 3 December 1997 as planned, at El Ayun and at Camp Smara in the Tindouf region. Two more identification centres were opened on 8 December, at Camp Dakhla and at Smara. A fifth centre, at Tan Tan in southern Morocco, open on 15 December. A sixth centre at El Ayun will become operational on 22 December. Preparations for identification work in Mauritania are somewhat behind schedule and the process there is likely to resume in late January.
The difficulties encountered have been mostly of a technical nature. Another issue, in the Tindouf region, relates to the identification of applicants who have not been convoked but present themselves for identification; the Commission has established that there is no objection by either party to the identification of those who constitute exceptional (humanitarian) cases. In this regard, the Commission considers that, for reasons of principle and practice, identification should follow a single convocation to a specific centre. The S.G. exprimes his conviction that MINURSO will be able to complete its tasks in accordance with the challenging timetable presented in his recent report to the Security Council.
Moroccan Interior Minister Driss Basri met Morocco's observers attending the identification process. The official Moroccan news agency MAP said: "It emerged from their observations that certain aspects of this operation need revisions. The speakers referred to certain obstacles and pressures exercised by observers of the other party in an attempt to include people with no link to the provinces of the south."
A spokeswoman of the MINURSO said ``Everything is going smoothly. There have been no significant difficulties or obstacles to date."
According to AFAPREDESA two young Saharawi citizens, Malainine Bachir Salek and Mohamed Lamin Chiaa, have been arrested at the border between Morocco and Spain, near Ceuta. They have been transferred to a military camp in Tetuan, interrogated and tortured. Three days later they have been transferred to Agadir. AFAPREDESA announces also the kidnapping of two bedouins in the region of Bir Ganduz, Abderrahmane Brahim Atman and Mohamed El Yaddasia, on December 10 1997.
Spain will spent 4 mio US$ to UNHCR as its participation to the repatriation operations, which will cost about 50 mio US$. Spain promised more help in the next months.
Providing an update on the ongoing identification process in Western Sahara, the spokesman of S.G. said that since the process resumed on 3 December, some 7,492 people had been convoked, of whom 3,327 were identified. The total number of persons identified so far, including those identified before, is 63,439. There are still more than 160'000 applicants to identify.
According to Moroccan sources, on December 11 and 12, hundreds of members of the Aït Ba-Amrane tribe (originary of the Ifni region, South Morocco) were not allowed to register on UN electorate lists. They refused to leave the place and the acting special representative Erik Jensen had to intervene. Finally, after long discussions, he allowed them to encounter MINURSO officials but not the identification offices (MAP). [ about tribes and census, french ]
French Prime Minister Lionel Jospin, accompanied by four ministers, started a two days official visit to Morocco. The common final declaration underlines that "the two countries have convergent and complementary analysis of the main regional and international questions". Several economical agreements were concluded, among them a convention on a loan of 220 mio FF for the development of the phosphate ressources.
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