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Morocco rejects any proposals to give UN mission in W. Sahara power to monitor human rights

Morocco condemned on Monday any talk of giving the U.N. mission to the disputed Western Sahara territory the power to supervise human rights after reports surfaced the U.S. was backing the move.

The United States is "in discussions" over proposing that MINURSO expand its mission to include monitoring human rights, confirmed U.S. embassy in Rabat spokesman Rodney Ford.

It is a position long backed by international human rights groups, who maintain the Moroccan government violates the rights of Saharan people living in the former Spanish colony.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said in a report Thursday that continued reports of human rights violations required sustained monitoring by a neutral party.

The Moroccan statement, issued after a meeting among the king, Cabinet and political party heads on Monday, however, rejected any such proposal and said Morocco's efforts to promote human rights were internationally recognized.

"The bias of such a unilateral move without prior consultation, in terms of content, context and procedure can only evoke incomprehension and rejection," said the statement.

Morocco annexed the former Spanish colony to its south in 1976, sparking a fight for independence in the region. There was a ceasefire in 1991, but a proposed U.N. referendum over the fate of the territory has never been carried out.

Morocco has proposed wide-ranging autonomy for mineral-rich Western Sahara, but the Polisario Front, the pro-independence nationalist movement, insists on the "inalienable right" to self-determination through a referendum on the territory's future. Neither side has budged and sporadic talks have ended in a stalemate.

The U.N. observer mission in the Western Sahara currently has 183 military observers, 26 troops, and six civilian police. Ban recommended an increase of 15 military observers and six police and suggested the mission be extended until April 30, 2014.

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