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Thursday, 7 March, 2002, 19:10 GMT
Polisario blasts Morocco's Sahara claim
King Mohammed arriving in Western Sahara
The king says Morocco will keep Western Sahara
The Polisario Front, the independence movement for Western Sahara, has condemned the latest speech by the king of Morocco claiming sovereignty over the disputed territory.

A statement broadcast on Polisario radio described the king's words as "a declaration of war on international legality".

Tent city in Western Sahara
The region is rich in phosphates and fish
In his address on Wednesday, King Mohammed said Morocco would not give up an inch of the region.

He was speaking during a visit to Western Sahara, his second in four months.

The Polisario also accused Morocco of wanting to plunder Western Sahara's resources, which include phosphorous, fish stocks and, perhaps, offshore oil.

Moroccan takeover

Morocco annexed Western Sahara after former colonial power Spain pulled out in 1976.

Since then, the status of the territory has been in dispute.

Most of it is controlled by Morocco - despite the opposition of the Polisario, which fought a sporadic guerrilla war until a 1991 ceasefire.

UN efforts since then to organise a referendum on the status of Western Sahara have been repeatedly frustrated by disputes over who is eligible to vote.

Sahrawi refugees
Tens of thousands of refugees remain in camps in southern Algeria
The king's visit came two weeks after a UN report suggested dividing up Western Sahara as one of four options for settling the conflict.

Morocco has rejected the proposal and accused neighbouring Algeria of backing it in an attempt to carve up the area.

The other possibilities put forward by the UN last month are:

  • The Security Council imposing terms for self determination
  • Making the territory a semi-autonomous part of Morocco
  • Pulling the UN out of Western Sahara.

See also:

06 Mar 02 | Africa
Morocco restates Sahara claim
03 Jan 02 | Middle East
Polisario to release Moroccan POWs
03 Dec 01 | Africa
Chirac stirs tension in Sahara
23 Nov 01 | Africa
Polisario calls for royal talks
01 Mar 01 | Africa
Sahara refugees' long wait
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