UN council must act on Western Sahara: Official

United Nations / AFP

The UN Security Council should keep its military liaison office open in Dakhla, Western Sahara, to avoid setting a dangerous precedent, a UN official said.
The world body said on Tuesday it had closed the office at Morocco’s request and withdrew three military observers posted there.
It was the latest twist in a running dispute between the world body and Morocco, which was angered when UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon recently referred to the “occupation” of the disputed territory.
The UN mission, which has about 500 civilian and military personnel, was established in 1991 to monitor a ceasefire and prepare for elections in Western Sahara.
But Morocco, which annexed Western Sahara in 1975, has resisted an election and instead proposes self-government under Moroccan sovereignty.
Ban “very much wants the Security Council to act, and not only to preserve MINUSRO’s operations but to prevent similar actions in other peacekeeping operations around the world,” the official told reporters on condition of anonymity.
He did not specify which other operation he was referring to, but the United Nations has had difficulties with its staff in places including Sudan, South Sudan and the Democratic Republic of Congo.
The United Nations has been trying to broker a Western Sahara settlement since a 1991 ceasefire ending a war that broke out when Morocco deployed its military in the former Spanish territory in 1975.
Morocco, which considers the territory to be part of its kingdom and insists that its sovereignty cannot be challenged, has also decided to cut $3 million in funding for the UN mission.
The UN official called Morocco’s moves an “extreme overreaction.”

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