In his latest report to the Security Council on the UN Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara (MINURSO), circulated to Council members today, the Secretary-General suggests extending the Mission’s mandate until 31 March in order to give the parties time to consider the proposal for a political solution, which provides for self-determination as requested by a Council resolution adopted last July. The Secretary-General recalls that James A. Baker III, his Personal Envoy guiding negotiations to end the conflict over the Western Sahara, travelled to the region just last week to present and explain the proposal to the parties and neighbouring countries. “Every possible option has been presented to the parties, aimed at reaching an agreed solution,” Mr. Annan says, emphasizing that the responsibility of reaching a positive conclusion now rests solely with the parties of the conflict. On the basis of Mr. Baker’s visit, which included meetings with the Moroccan Government and the leadership of the Frente POLISARIO, as well as officials from neighbouring Mauritania and Algeria, the Secretary-General says that he and his Personal Envoy will soon provide to the Council their views of the options available regarding Western Sahara. “As the parties consider the proposal,” the Secretary-General says, “I urge them to keep in mind the years of suffering this long-standing question has caused to thousands of innocent people in the Territory, in refugee camps and who remain prisoners of war.” He also urges the parties to seize this new opportunity to provide the people of the Western Sahara a better life.