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Morocco says it no longer has confidence in UN envoy

UN special envoy for Western Sahara Christopher Ross (R) is welcome by Morocco's King Mohammed VI in 2010 (© 2009 AFP)

Morocco on Thursday said it had lost confidence in the United Nations’ envoy for Western Sahara, Christopher Ross, claiming his work in the disputed region was “unbalanced and biased”.

Morocco’s attack on Ross follows months of growing tensions between the Rabat government and the UN over Western Sahara, the territory Morocco started to annex in 1975 as Spanish colonists withdrew.

“Ross has drifted from the mandate given to him by the UN secretary general in his role as facilitator,” said Youssef Amrani, a delegate with Morocco’s foreign ministry.

A government statement went on to say that Ross’s work was “unbalanced and biased”.

Ross, of the United States, was designated special envoy for Western Sahara in January 2009 and UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon on Thursday expressed his continued support.

“The secretary general has complete confidence in Christopher Ross,” UN spokesman Martin Nesirky said.

A UN report on Western Sahara released last month said Morocco’s tactics had “undermined” UN attempts to report on events in the territory, while also criticising the human rights situation.

Morocco’s Foreign Minister Saad Dine Otmani met UN leader Ban last week and said afterwards that he had raised “worries” about the report.

UN-brokered talks between Morocco and Polisario Front rebels are deadlocked, and Ross has urged a broadening of the UN’s mission in Western Sahara.

“Ross has over-reached,” a government source told AFP. “He has blatantly interfered in a dispute where he is supposed to be neutral.”

Rabat has proposed making Western Sahara largely autonomous while keeping it under Moroccan sovereignty. The Polisario Front, which is supported by Algeria, has rejected the proposal.

Algeria, meanwhile, praised Ross’s “tireless” efforts to find a political solution to the issue of Western Sahara.

Ross’s predecessor, Peter van Walsum of the Netherlands, quit in 2008 saying an accord was not possible.

Signature : RABAT (AFP)

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