Moroccan tears down Algerian flag from consulate

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A young Moroccan tore down the Algerian flag from the roof of that country’s consulate in the city of Casablanca during a protest Friday over disputed Western Sahara, police said.

A video widely circulated on Internet sites in Morocco shows the man climbing the walls of the building to reach the flag.

A police official told AFP the man, a member of a group called “Royalist Youth,” was arrested and would appear before a judge.

Dozens of people had gathered outside the consulate in Morocco’s economic capital to protest over comments by Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika on Western Sahara.

In a speech read out in Bouteflika’s name at a meeting in Abuja, he said an international mechanism to monitor human rights in Western Sahara was needed “more than ever.”

Bouteflika referred to “massive and systematic human rights violations that take place inside the occupied territories to suppress the peaceful struggle” of the Sahrawi people.

Rabat in protest recalled its ambassador to Algiers.

The spat is the latest between the North African neighbors whose decades-old rivalry centers on the disputed territory, annexed by Morocco in 1975 in a move never recognized by the international community.

Rabat has proposed broad autonomy for the phosphate-rich Western Sahara under its sovereignty.

This is rejected by the pro-independence Polisario Front, who are based in the western Algerian city of Tindouf and fought Moroccan troops for a decade and half until the United Nations negotiated a ceasefire in 1991.