UN envoy in Morocco months after rebuke: ministry

RABAT- UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon's Western Sahara envoy Christopher Ross, spurned by Morocco in May, began a visit to the kingdom early on Saturday, the foreign ministry said.
Details of the visit were not given, but it is part of "efforts to revive the process of finding a definitive, consensual political solution to the Western Sahara dispute," the ministry said in a statement reported by news agency MAP.

The United Nations announced this month that Ross would start a three-week visit to North Africa and Europe on Saturday to meet key players in the Western Sahara dispute, and try to reach a "mutually acceptable political solution."
Activists in Moroccan-held Western Sahara demand self-determination, with the kingdom offering greater autonomy but refusing to hold a referendum in the phosphate-rich territory.
Ross, who will report to the UN Security Council on his return, was spurned in May by Rabat, where officials called his work in the disputed region "unbalanced and biased."
A UN report on Western Sahara released the previous month said Morocco's tactics had "undermined" UN attempts to report on events in the territory, while also criticising the human rights situation.
Ban defended Ross, telling King Mohammed VI that he would not give in to demands to replace the envoy.
Western Sahara, a former Spanish colony annexed by Morocco in 1975, is at the centre of the conflict between the Algerian-backed Polisario Front and Rabat, which is willing to accord broad autonomy but not independence.
UN efforts, led by Ross since 2009, to arrange a negotiated solution have been deadlocked for years.

Sunday, October 28th 2012

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