Morocco urges review of ties with Spain over Western Sahara flap

2nd December 2010, Comments 0 comments

Morocco on Thursday called for a global review of its ties with Madrid after Spanish lawmakers pressed their government to condemn recent deadly clashes in the disputed Western Sahara.

"The Moroccan government believes the time has come for a global review of (Rabat's) relations with Spain in all fields," Communication Minister Khalid Naciri said.

He did not spell out what sort of review is being contemplated.

His comments came after Spanish deputies on Thursday overwhelmingly passed a motion urging the Socialist government in Madrid to "condemn the violent incidents of November 8" when Moroccan security forces dismantled a camp in Western Sahara, a former Spanish colony.

The lawmakers also called on their government to "express to Moroccan authorities their concern over reports of human rights violations on Sahrawi territory."

"Spanish political forces put Morocco at the centre of internal political battles in an electoral context aiming to divert attention from the deep economic crisis besetting Spain," Naciri told reporters.

Saturday, Rabat shot down any idea of a UN enquiry into the November 8 clashes and also reiterated that the UN mission in Western Sahara (MINURSO) had no business probing allegations of human rights in the territory.

But Spanish deputies want MINURSO's mandate to include human rights monitoring. MINURSO, which was established in 1991, fields 224 uniformed personnel and 276 civilians.

Moroccan security forces on November 8 stormed and dismantled the Gdim Izik camp erected outside Laayoune by some 15,000 Sahrawis who objected to living conditions inside the town.

According to Rabat, the unrest caused 13 deaths, 11 among state security forces. The Algerian-backed Polisario Front, which is fighting for an independent Western Sahara, says the casualty toll ran into "dozens."

Rabat has pledged to grant Western Sahara widespread autonomy but rules out independence.

The Polisario Front, with the support of Algiers, wants a referendum on self-determination, with independence as one of the options.

Morocco's 1975 annexation of the territory when Spain withdrew sparked a war between its forces and Polisario guerrillas. The two sides agreed to a ceasefire in 1991 but the UN-sponsored talks on Western Sahara's future have since made no headway.

© 2010 AFP

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