New talks in Nov on Western Sahara dispute: UN envoy

Morocco and Polisario Front will hold fresh round of talks in early November.

Algiers: Morocco and the Polisario Front will hold a fresh round of talks on the future of Western Sahara in early November, the UN special envoy for Western Sahara said.

Polisario had indicated it was available to take part in the talks scheduled for the beginning of next month, the Sahrawi news agency SPS reported, Christopher Ross said during a tour of the region.

Ross was talking to journalists before leaving the Algerian capital for Nouakchott in Mauritania.

Talks he had on Wednesday with Polisario chief Mohamed Abdelaziz in Sahrawi refugee camps in Tindouf, southwest Algeria, had covered "the need to lessen tensions and avoid any incident that could worsen the situation or hamper discussions”, he said.

Earlier, Algeria`s APS news agency reported Ross as saying he hoped for advances in a settlement to the conflict over the region. Morocco annexed Western Sahara in 1975.

His talks with Abdelaziz had enabled them to look at ways to calm tensions and avoid complications to the negotiations, he said.

It was his fourth trip to the region since becoming special envoy in January 2009.

The Polisario Front, supported by Algeria, wants a referendum on self-determination, with independence as one of the options.

Morocco has pledged to grant the territory widespread autonomy but rules out independence.

Ross has already met Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika on his trip. He is due next in Mauritania and Morocco.

The last informal meeting between Morocco and the Polisario Front took place in February near New York, but broke up without progress after two days.

A UN-sponsored ceasefire has held in the Western Sahara, which lies south of Morocco on the Atlantic seaboard, since 1991.

Morocco controls the bulk of the territory and Polisario runs the rest, with bases and refugee camps around Tindouf in neighbouring Algeria.

Bureau Report

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