domingo, 22 de fevereiro de 2009

Christopher Ross arrived in Tindouf

The new UN special envoy for Western Sahara, Christopher Ross arrived early Saturday afternoon in Tindouf (southwestern Algeria) as part of his tour in the region, told the press an official of the Polisario Front.

"Mr. Ross arrived at 13H30 (local, 12:30 GMT). He will begin discussions with the Sahraoui delegation engaged in negotiations with Morocco on the future of Western Sahara, said Habibouallah Mohamed, head to the Polisario Front.

Tindouf home for over thirty years some 165,000 Sahraoui refugees, according to official Saharans figures.

Ross must stay until Sunday evening in Tindouf, where he will hold talks with officials including the Sahraoui Polisario leader Mohamed Abdelaziz, according to M’hamed Khedad, another official of the Polisario Front.

"We will tell Mr. Ross that it is time to hold a referendum on self-determination to give voice to the Saharaoui people to decide or choose between independence and integration with Morocco," said Mr. Khedad.

Mr. Ross, who then must go to Algiers, began his visit Wednesday in the area from Rabat where he met King Mohamed VI.

Former Spanish colony rich in phosphates, Western Sahara was annexed in 1975 by Morocco, which offers a wide autonomy under its sovereignty, rejecting any independence.

The Polisario, supported by Algeria, on the other hand requires a referendum for self-determination in which independence would be one of the options.

Before this tour of Mr. Ross, UN officials have cautioned against too high expectations, explaining that it was simply to assess the chances of a resumption of the negotiating process of Manhasset, launched near New York in June 2007 between Morocco and the Polisario, under the auspices of the United Nations.

Four rounds of negotiations have already taken place, but without progress. A new round of talks is scheduled for an unspecified date.

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