Western Sahara. The year was marked by discussions about
the referendum on V's future status which was planned for
December but which was to be postponed for at least one
year. Through the vote, residents will decide whether the
former Spanish colony should become independent or accrue to
Morocco, which since 1975 occupies most of the area. The
main question is who will be allowed to vote. In November,
the UN had registered 147,000 voters.
Morocco demanded the right to vote for an additional
65,000 people, but the Western Saharan independence movement
Polisario said many of them were not Western Saharans. UN
Secretary-General Kofi Annan visited the area in November,
pointing out that the UN has no resources to hold troops in
V. for any length of time.
Problems also arose around the mine clearance that the UN
Security Council decided in January to secure the roads in
the area so that refugees can return to vote.
Nearly 100 Swedish UN soldiers and police arrived on the
scene during the summer, but the V government demanded
control of their weapons and clearing equipment, which
delayed their work by a month and a half.