Western Sahara. Morocco's King Muhammad VI visited in
March V., which Morocco annexed in 1975. In connection with
the visit, Morocco's Minister of Communications Nabil
Benabdellah said that discussions on a plan for wider
autonomy for V. should be initiated. The king later pardoned
just over 200 prisoners in V.
The UN Security Council extended the UN mandate of
MINURSO during the year. Prior to the decision on October
31, UN Secretary General Kofi Annan called on both Morocco
and the Independence Movement Polisario to launch unreserved
talks to find a solution to the protracted conflict. Algeria
and Mauritania were also proposed to participate. UN envoy
Peter van Walsum said in October that the outlook was small
for a quick solution.
Saharans protested that in May the EU and Morocco signed
a four-year fisheries agreement which also included water
belonging to V. As Sweden was the only EU country, Sweden
voted against the agreement with reference to Morocco's
occupation of V. and that V. was not guaranteed part of the
compensation for fishing.
Skyfall in February hit southern Algeria and destroyed
many houses and tents in camps where 60,000 Saharan refugees
live. The United Nations Food Program WFP and the Red Cross
pleaded for support.