Pulse.ng logo
Go

U.N. Staffers pull out of Western Sahara mission - state media

The source said 73 U.N. staffers had left, 10 would leave in the afternoon and one would remain for now.

  • Published:
The United Nations headquarters building is pictured though a window with the UN logo in the foreground in the Manhattan borough of New York August 15, 2014. REUTERS/Carlo Allegri play The United Nations headquarters building is pictured though a window with the UN logo in the foreground in the Manhattan borough of New York August 15, 2014. REUTERS/Carlo Allegri
24/7 Live - Subscribe to the Pulse Newsletter!

Dozens of United Nations international staffers pulled out of their Western Sahara mission on Sunday after Morocco demanded they leave because of Ban Ki-Moon's remarks about the disputed territory, Morocco's state news agency and a source said.

MAP state news agency said a "significant number" of U.N. staffers had left Laayoune airport in U.N. aircraft and commercial flights to Las Palmas in Spain.

The source said 73 U.N. staffers had left, 10 would leave in the afternoon and one would remain for now.

Rabat accused Ban earlier this month of no longer being neutral in the Western Sahara dispute.

Morocco said he used the word "occupation" to describe its annexation of the region at the centre of a struggle since 1975, when Morocco took over from colonial power Spain.

The United Nations said it had three days to remove the 84 civilian staff from Western Sahara.

The controversy over Ban's comments is Morocco's worst dispute with the United Nations since 1991, when the U.N. brokered a ceasefire to end a war over the Western Sahara and established the mission.

MAP state news agency said a "significant number" of U.N. staffers had left Laayoune airport on U.N. aircraft and commercial flights to Las Palmas in Spain.

A Moroccan official source said 73 U.N. staffers had left, 10 would leave in the afternoon and one would remain for now. The source added the 84th staff member would stay for now because she is pregnant.

The mission currently has 242 military personnel, 84 international civilian staff, 157 national staff and 12 volunteers.

Morocco said it would also stop its voluntary contribution to the mission estimated at $3 million (out of $53 million), according to the UN.

Neither military personnel, nor the ceasefire monitoring units, nor the head of the mission are affected by the cuts.

Earlier this month, Ban visited refugee camps in southern Algeria for the Sahrawi people, who say Western Sahara belongs to them. They fought a war against Morocco until the 1991 ceasefire.

Their Polisario Front wants a referendum on independence, but Rabat says it will only grant autonomy.

Do you ever witness news or have a story that should be featured on Pulse Nigeria?
Submit your stories, pictures and videos to us now via WhatsApp: +2349055172167, Social Media @pulsenigeria247: #PulseEyewitness & DM or Email: eyewitness@pulse.ng. More information here.