UNITED NATIONS, June 11 (UPI) -- Former U.S. secretary of state James Baker, U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan's personal envoy for Western Sahara, has resigned.
Annan spokeswoman Marie Okabe announced the resignation Friday afternoon.
Baker was appointed in March 1997 and has been working with the U.N. Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara, known as Minurso, to help settle the territory's status.
The mission was established in 1991 after years of fighting between Western Saharans and Morocco following Spain's withdrawal from the territory in 1976.
Last year the United Nations released a suggested peace plan, backed by the Security Council as an "optimum political solution," between Morocco and the POLISARIO Front that would have given Baker, as Annan's personal envoy, responsibility for a referendum determining whether the people of Western Sahara chose independence or integration with Morocco.
However, Morocco rejected the peace plan in April and proposed to give Western Sahara limited autonomy.
The 73-year-old Baker, who reportedly had repeatedly threatened to quit the U.N. post because of intransigence, served as secretary of state under President George H.W. Bush and as treasury secretary under President Ronald Reagan.