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Mohammed VI Moroccan king reaches out to African leaders in Senegal

Morocco has occupied the sparsely populated Western Sahara area since 1975 in a move that was not recognised.

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Moroccan King Mohammed VI (C) waves to the crowd eyed by Senegalese president Macky Sall upon his arrival at Dakar's airport on November 6, 2016 play

Moroccan King Mohammed VI (C) waves to the crowd eyed by Senegalese president Macky Sall upon his arrival at Dakar's airport on November 6, 2016

(AFP)

Moroccan King Mohammed VI offered a conditional olive branch to African leaders Sunday in a speech in Senegal declaring his country wanted to "take back its natural position in Africa".

Morocco is seeking to rejoin the African Union, 32 years after quitting the bloc in protest at its decision to accept Western Sahara as a member.

In a gesture of African solidarity, Mohammed VI delivered an annual speech usually given at home in Dakar to "show the great interest we take in our continent", while still firmly maintaining the "unshakeable Moroccan identity of the Western Sahara".

Morocco has occupied the sparsely populated Western Sahara area since 1975 in a move that was not recognised by the international community.

Mohammed VI emphasised his nation would "ask no one's permission to take our legitimate rights," as "nothing" would change regarding its position on the Western Sahara.

The king arrived late Sunday from Gabon on a three-day trip to Senegal following an east African charm offensive in Rwanda and Tanzania.

He declared that Morocco has "a staggering level of support to take up a seat in the heart of the institutional family of Africans," referring to the AU.

He is due to meet Senegalese officials on Monday including President Macky Sall.

Morocco maintains that Western Sahara is an integral part of the kingdom even though local Sahrawi people have long campaigned for the right to self-determination.

In 1991, the United Nations brokered a ceasefire between Moroccan troops and Sahrawi rebels of the Algerian-backed Polisario Front but a promised referendum to settle the status of the desert territory is yet to materialise.

Rabat's membership bid must be approved by a vote of the AU Commission in order to be accepted.

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