Western Sahara demands UN seat, blasts France and Spain

Algiers (AFP) –


Western Sahara's foreign minister Mohamed Salem Ould Salek on Monday demanded a UN seat for the disputed territory and accused France and Spain of impeding a referendum on self-determination.

The status of Western Sahara, which the United Nations classifies as a "non-self-governing territory", has for decades pitted Morocco against the pro-independence Polisario Front.

"The Sahrawi state claims its seat at the UN," said Ould Salek, on behalf the republic declared by the Polisario in 1976.

The republic, as a founding member of the African Union, "demands its rightful place" among world nations, he told a news conference in Algiers, allies of the Polisario.

Ould Salek protested at what he called France's "blind support" for Morocco in stalling a referendum on the land, a vast desert expanse of 266,000 square kilometres (100,000 square miles).

As for Spain, he accused the former colonial power of "betrayal" and "refusing to assume its (historic) responsibilities" towards the Sahrawi people.

Morocco claims the entire territory and controls 80 percent, with a huge sand berm and UN peacekeepers separating a Polisario-held enclave in the east.

The peacekeepers are mandated to organise a long-stalled referendum on self-determination.

In November, the Polisario announced it regarded a 1991 ceasefire as null and void, after Morocco sent troops into a UN-patrolled buffer zone to reopen a key road.