The identification process has been broken off in all offices after the refusal of the Sahrawi tribal leaders (chioukhs) coming from the refugee camps to be controlled by the Moroccan authorities at their arrival at El Ayun airport. The identification resumed on January 13.
Spain Foreign Minister in Morocco
Abel Matutes was received by King Hassan in the frame of a short visit denominated "technical stop". The Western Sahara conflict was the principal theme of the calls, which lasted one and a half hour. The Moroccan Foreign Minister met Matutes before. Matutes underlined Spain's will to respect the Houston agreements and not interfere with the UN peace plan. He was satisfied with the excellent state of the relations between Morocco and Spain adding that "Morocco is understanding and appreciating Spain position on the Sahara". An official visit of Spain Prime Minister was discussed for March. Matutes pursued his trip to Mauritania.
According to the Chinese official news agency, Algerian President Liamine Zeroual met with visiting Chinese Vice Premier Qian Qichen. Zeroual and Qian talked about international problems of common concern, including the peace process in the Western Sahara.
Sweden in MINURSO
The Swedish government decided on request of the UN to send 10 civil policemen to MINURSO. Another request about partcipation to the removal of landmines has lead to a decision by the Swedish government to send a fact finding mission to Western Sahara in the middle of January to find out wether Sweden will participate in this part of MINURSO.
The Spokesman's office of the UN Secretary-General had received a handout from the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees concerning their operations in Western Sahara. The handout stated that up to 120,000 refugees were expected to return to Western Sahara for the referendum. The role of UNHCR would be to arrange for those refugees who had been identified as eligible to participate in the referendum and who wished to go back to return safely, together with their immediate family. The operation would be divided into three phases: the preparatory and registration phase from January to June 1998; a repatriation phase from July to December 1998; and a final phase of rehabilitation and reintegration after the referendum. UNCHR plans to launch this month an appeal for 50 million U.S. dollars, which it estimates be the cost of the repatriation.
Applicants convoked since Dec. 3 1997 = 18'688
Applicants identified since Dec. 3 1997 = 15'799
Applicants identified since Aug. 1994 = 75'911
Report of the Secretary-General on Western Sahara (S/1998/35)
In a new report to the Security Council, the Secretary-General reports "promising progress" since the identification process resumed last December after two years of delays and notes that identification activities had been pursued vigorously, with full participation of observers of the two parties and of the OAU. A centre will open at Zouerate in Mauritania and another in Northern Morocco on 2 February. "Nevertheless, the completion of the identification phase by 31 May 1998 will be a daunting and arduous task, involving the convocation of more than 100,000 applicants and their identification in less than five months," he notes. With the Identification Commission operating at two-thirds strength, the Secretary-General says that the completion of the identification process by May is conceivable only if a full complement of qualified staff is in place by the end of January, and if there are no interruptions in the process.
The Secretary-General also observes that "until the number of non-convoked persons presenting themselves is known for certain, it will not be possible to confirm that the identification process can be concluded by the end of May to permit the start of the transitional period on 7 June as planned". In order to adhere as strictly as possible to the timetable presented in November and permit for the referendum to be held by the end of this year, the Secretary-General appeals to the Security Council and to the General Assembly to support the provision of necessary resources in full and on time.
As of the end of last year, some $48.9 million was owed to the Mission by Member States which have not paid their assessed contributions. Because funds have not been made available for the deployment of the Engineering Unit, demining activities will not commence in February as planned. That, in turn, will cause other delays in the settlement plan.
A new agreement has meanwhile been reached between the Royal Moroccan Army and the POLISARIO Front to ensure that no hostility of any type is resumed. According to the report, the situation in the area remains calm.
A Nordic conference on Western Sahara with the theme "Freedom and development for the Saharawi women" takes place in Stockholm, Sweden with the participation of an important delegation of the NUSW (National Union of Saharawi Women). The conference is organized by different women organizations and solidarity groups.
As a reaction, Morocco sent a delegation of Saharawi defectors in order to "ensure the positive neutrality of Sweden" in the Western Sahara conflict. (MAP)
Honours for the Polisario Front
The Saharawi President reaches Bilbao on January 24 to receive the international award of the Sabino Arana Foundation, conferred this year to the Polisario Front. The awards of this foundation honour personalities or institutions of great value. He will be received by the President, the government and the parliament of Bask Country, and will visit the three Bask regions until 28 January.
The Referendum Support Campaign of the Spanish trade unions CCOO
and UGT is awailable on:
Associação de Cooperação e Amizade com
o Povo Saharaui
Rua Pinheiro Chagas, 77 - 2.º Esq.
Tel. 317 28 60
Fax. 353 40 09
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