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On Western Sahara, France Says Only 1 "Friend Has Problems," Draft Not Agreed?

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, April 17 -- When the Western Sahara meeting of the UN Security Council let out on Tuesday, Inner City Press asked French Ambassador Gerard Araud if he thought the so-called Group of Friends on Western Sahara would come to an internal agreement on the draft resolution needed to extend the mandate of the UN Peacekeeping mission MINURSO before distributing it to all Security Council members.

  In the past when this Group which does not contain any members from the African Union which supports Western Sahara's right to a referendum on self-determination released a draft its members all agreed and were sworn to support the draft in the wider Security Council, making further input and change impossible. If the Friends are not agreed, the other members can have a say.

  Araud replied, "Yes, I hope so. There is still I guess one of the Friends that has problems. But I think we are close to an agreement."

  Multiple sources have told Inner City Press that France, represented at this stage on the Group of Friends by its expert Mariam Diallo, has been opposing the resolution trying to ensure the MINURSO mission's "effectiveness" and, as before, human rights monitoring of the type other UN peacekeeping missions have.

In terms of Araud's assessment that only "one of the Friends.. has problems," Inner City Press is told that there at least two.

A Security Council member excluded from the Group of Friends, South Africa, said that the Friends have promised to circulate a draft "later today," whether it's agreed to by all the Friends of not. South African Permanent Representative Baso Sangqu told Inner City Press, "Our issue was that the earlier we all get involved,the better for everybody." Watch this site.

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Click here for a Reuters AlertNet piece by this correspondent about Uganda's Lord's Resistance Army. Click here for an earlier Reuters AlertNet piece about the Somali National Reconciliation Congress, and the UN's $200,000 contribution from an undefined trust fund.  Video Analysis here

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