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Last Updated: Tuesday, 9 November, 2004, 16:02 GMT
Morocco denies Mugabe request
Polisario soldiers
The Polisario want a referendum on self-determination
Morocco's foreign ministry has denied reports saying it had asked Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe to mediate in the Western Sahara dispute.

State TV in Harare had earlier said that visiting Moroccan Foreign Minister Mohammed Benaissa had made the request.

The Polisario Front has been fighting for independence since the area was annexed by Morocco after Spain withdrew from its former colony in 1975.

United Nations attempts to resolve the dispute collapsed earlier this year after Morocco rejected a peace plan.

Zimbabwe has previously supported the Polisario's cause.

In September, South Africa opened diplomatic relations with the region, which has angered Morocco.

South African President Thabo Mbeki urged Africans to support self-determination for Western Sahara.

The Moroccans recalled their ambassador to South Africa for consultations.

The UN-backed plan included a referendum on self-determination for the Saharawi people, but Morocco refused to accept any loss of control over the area.

Former mediator James Baker resigned in June, and his successor has said that he will pursue the same policy.

The UN has spent more than $600m on peacekeeping efforts in Western Sahara as it has attempted to resolve the issue over the last 13 years.

'Africa's last colony'
21 Oct 03 |  Africa
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23 Jun 04 |  Africa
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12 Jun 04 |  Africa

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