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Press release

29 June 2000


Talks between the Governement of Morocco and the Polisario Front, over the sovereignty of Western Sahara, were completed last night under auspices of UN Special Envoy James Baker III.

According to Polisario negotiator Brahim Mokhtar, the meeting ended with the parties reaffirming their commitment to the existing UN Settlement Plan as the framework for finally resolving the twenty-five year conflict.

The UN Settlement Plan, is designed to enable the Saharawi people to exercise their self-determination through a referendum on the independence of Western Sahara. Suggestions of a "third way", other than the Plan, appear to have been dismissed.

Mokhtar expects that "technical meetings will be convened over the next few months in Geneva to resolve the remaining difficulties with the appeals process".

On 17 January, the United Nations published a list of 86,3867 voters after interviewing 198,000 applicants presented by the parties. Morocco complained that the most of the list of names it presented had been rejected by the UN Identification Commission.

According to the UN Secretary-General's latest report /S/2000/461), the UN have now received over 130,000 appeals, the majority residing in Morocco. However, it is understood that few of these applicants have provided the necessary new written evidence to be eligible for another appeals interview.

To be eligible to vote, an applicant must prove they were present in Western Sahara in 1974 or a descendant of the above, prior to the Moroccan occupation of the country the following year.

Former UN personnel, and non-governmental organisations, including Human Rights Watch, have long complained about Morocco's attempt to gerrymander the referendum process by flooding the identification process with a list of people who have no link to Western Sahara. Most observers, believe that Morocco is seeking to further delay the referendum by sponsoring a large number of appeals. A referendum which UN officials privately say is likely to lead to an overwhelming vote for independence.

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