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Moroccans protest UN Chief's position on Western Sahara

Moroccans protest UN Chief's position on Western Sahara

Morocco

Ten of thousands of Moroccans marched through Rabat on Sunday to protest against UN Secretary General, Ban Ki-moon’s position on the Western Sahara dispute.

The protesters waved portraits of King Mohamed and the country’s flags chanting “The Sahara is ours, the king is ours”.

They all assembled in a street near the parliament building in a rally supported by the government.

These people are not ready to let down their territorial unity with or without Ban Ki-moon. The Moroccan people are ready to face all challenges.

Morocco’s government had last week accused Ban of not being neutral in the Western Sahara conflict, saying he used the word “occupation” to describe Morocco’s presence in the region that has been at the centre of a dispute since 1975.

“These people are not ready to let down their territorial unity with or without Ban Ki-moon. The Moroccan people are ready to face all challenges,” said a senior member of the opposition Istiqlal Party, Abdallah Bakkali, at the protest.

According to State news agency MAP three million people attended the march, though those figures could not be confirmed. Some protesters said there were free buses and trains for the rally.

The long-running dispute over the region in the northwest edge of Africa has dragged on since Morocco took control over most of it in 1975 following the withdrawal of former colonial power,Spain.

The Polisario Front, which claims the territory belongs to ethnic Sahrawis, fought a rebel war against Morocco until a U.N.-brokered ceasefire in 1991.

However, the two sides have been deadlocked since that agreement.

Ban said earlier this month he would restart U.N. efforts to reach a solution after visiting camps in southern Algeria for the Polasario Front leadership and refugees who fled the conflict and have spent decades there.

Morocco’s king last year insisted only the autonomy plan was acceptable. Rabat invests heavily in the Western Sahara, hoping to calm social unrest and independence claims, and in February announced a $1.85 billion investment plan.

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