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Moroccans protest call for probe of Western Sahara incident

28 November 2010, 19:24 CET
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(CASABLANCA) - Tens of thousands of people marched here Sunday to protest a call by the European Parliament for a UN probe into recent violent clashes between Moroccan forces and residents of the Western Sahara, an AFP correspondent reported.

Moroccan authorities however said "more than a million" people took part in the march, called by major political parties to protest what they see as "a biased and unjust" resolution passed by the European Parliament.

The Strasbourg parliament said Thursday it "strongly condemns" the November 8 clashes and voiced the "greatest concern about the significant deterioration of the situation in Western Sahara."

Morocco says 11 security officers and at least two civilians were killed in the violence, while the Polisario Front, which wants independence for Western Sahara, said the toll was much higher.

Sunday's march here came only three days before a scheduled visit to Strasbourg by Moroccan Foreign Minister Taeib Fassi Fihri to brief European deputies on Rabat's stance.

In an interview with Spain's El Pais daily published Saturday, Fihri said Rabat rejected a European investigation of the Western Sahara incident and also opposed any role by the UN mission in the territory on the issue of human rights.

Referring to demands for the UN to oversee human rights in the former Spanish territory annexed by Morocco in 1975, Fihri said, "We are not going to waver on this question."

Fihri said the demands "serve our enemies," in reference to the separatist Polisario Front and its chief backer Algeria, adding, "We are at war."

The UN Security Council has also deplored the November 8 clashes, which coincided with a new round of UN-brokered peace talks between Rabat and the Polisario that ended with both sides agreeing only to meet again in December.

Morocco annexed Western Sahara after Spain pulled out of its former colony in 1975, but the Polisario Front fought the Moroccan presence until the United Nations brokered a ceasefire in 1991.

The Polisario wants a UN-organised referendum on self-determination, with independence as one of the options.

Morocco has so far rejected any proposal that goes beyond greater autonomy.

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