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Morocco’s autonomy plan for W. Sahara ‘serious, credible,’ U.S. says

Morocco offered autonomy for Western Sahara, but the Polisario Front demands secession

Published: Updated:

The United States said Friday that a plan drawn up by Morocco regarding the autonomy of Western Sahara was “serious, realistic and credible” ahead of a meeting between President Barack Obama and King Mohammed VI.

“Morocco's autonomy plan is serious, realistic and credible,” White House spokesman Jay Carney said.

“It represents a potential approach that can satisfy the aspirations of the people in the Western Sahara to run their own affairs in peace and dignity.”

The former Spanish colony was annexed by Morocco in 1975.

The Algeria-backed Polisario Front wants independence for the territory through a self-determination referendum.

A 2007 proposal from Rabat advocated a plan for a high degree of autonomy while retaining all “attributes of sovereignty, such as the flag, the national anthem and the currency.”

A U.N. peacekeeping mission, MINURSO, has been deployed to Western Sahara since 1991 and its mandate was extended by the UN Security Council in April 2013.

But U.S. efforts at the U.N. to give MINURSO unprecedented human rights monitoring powers failed in the face of intense Moroccan lobbying, straining relations between Washington and Rabat.

King Mohammed VI was to meet Obama later Friday, the first visit to the White House by the Moroccan monarch since 2004.

Morocco remains a key strategic ally of the United States, and has “non-NATO major ally” status, allowing it access to U.S. arms sales.