United Nations

Security Council


5th of November 1996

Original: English

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Report of the Secretary-General


When the Security Council met, it had before it a report of the Secretary-General on the situation concerning Western Sahara (S/1996/913), in which he recommends that the Council extend the mandate of MINURSO for six months, until 31 May 1997. He cautions that the international community could not be expected to indefinitely extend the mission unless tangible progress was made towards settlement of the question of Western Sahara.

The report states that following the adoption of resolution 1056 (1996), the Secretary-General's Acting Special Representative had travelled regularly between Rabat and the Tindouf area. He communicated with the Moroccan Minister of the Interior and with the Coordinator for MINURSO, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Saguia el-Hamra and Rio de Oro (POLISARIO). In October, he met in Algiers with the Minister of Foreign Affairs for Algeria, and in Nouakchott with the President of Mauritania and his Minister of Foreign Affairs. In all of those meetings he had stressed obstacles to the implementation of the Settlement Plan, especially those aspects highlighted by the Security Council.

The Secretary-General urges the parties to cooperate with his Acting Special Representative in his efforts to resolve outstanding aspects of the Settlement Plan. The Special Representative has assisted the parties to overcome their differences, and the presence of the political office and of military observers had helped to reassure the parties and ensure respect for the cease-fire. The release of prisoners of war by the Government of Morocco had promoted confidence, and cooperation with the work of the Independent Jurist appointed by the Secretary-General in April 1995 to handle the prisoners issue would be a step in the same direction.

Regarding the work of the Identification Commission, the Secretary- General recalls that last May he had concluded that there could be no early resumption of identification, and that the personnel assigned to those duties should not be retained. He describes the differences of the Government of Morocco and the POLISARIO on the identification process as "irreconcilable".

The POLISARIO, citing earlier reports of the Secretary-General, maintains that applicants should be members of "a Saharan subfraction included in the 1974 census". They further maintain that contested tribal groups H (Tribus del Norte), I (Chorfa) and J (Costeras y del Sur) are not composed of such "subfractions". From those groups Polisario would accept only individuals that had been included in the census. The Government of Morocco insists that those contested groups should be treated like any other subfractions for purposes of the identification process. It wishes MINURSO to proceed with the identification of all persons whose applications were submitted on time, without prejudice to the decision of the Identification Commission.

The parties are also divided over lists of persons already identified and found eligible to vote, according to the Secretary-General. The POLISARIO insists on such lists being made available before the resumption of identification. The Government of Morocco rejects that as an unacceptable departure from the provisions of the Settlement Plan and as lacking approval by the Security Council.

The military component of MINURSO, headed by Major-General José Eduardo Garcia Leandro (Portugal), was reduced from a strength of 288 military observers in May to 230 on 1 November, according to the report. Ground patrols have been maintained at previous levels and helicopter reconnaissance flights had been increased.

While the cease-fire continued to hold, MINURSO had noted technical violations and intensified military activity on both sides, apparently aimed at ensuring combat readiness for the end of the MINURSO mandate. The POLISARIO forces conducted live-fire exercises in August. The Royal Moroccan Army conducted live-fire exercises in all subsectors; maintained defence works, firing positions and shelters; established and re-equipped ammunition sites; reorganized units along the berm and conducted air drills from Smara airport.

The Mission's civilian police component, headed by Lieutenant-Colonel Jan Kleven (Norway), was reduced from 91 in January to 44 by the end of May, and was then cut further to nine civilian police officers in order to ensure the security of equipment and computerized information in Laayoune and Tindouf. The civilian police component continues to provide escort and other assistance to MINURSO, as necessary.

Following the suspension of the identification process, the number of civilian posts in the Mission had been reduced from 410 to 170.
Regarding financial aspects of the Mission, the Secretary-General states that retrenchments had reduced the cost of the mission by some 40 per cent, from an original figure of $48,456,000 per annum to $30,132,000 (net). He recalls that on 17 October, the General Assembly appropriated $13,292,500 gross for the operation of the mission for the period from 1 July to the expiration of its current mandate on 30 November. In the same resolution, the Assembly also appropriated $18,609,500 gross for period from 1 December to 30 June 1997, to be assessed at a monthly rate of $2,658,500 gross, should the Council decide to extend the mission. The Secretary-General notes that as at 31 October, unpaid assessed contributions to the MINURSO special account for the period since the inception of the mission to 30 November amounted to $54.2 million. Total outstanding assessed contributions for all peace-keeping operations as at the same date stood at over $1.7 billion.

Annexes to the report detail the composition of the military component of the mission and the deployment of MINURSO as of November.

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