Morocco's government has ordered out scores of U.N. workers in Moroccan-held Western Sahara over an ongoing spat with the international organization.

According to official state news agency MAP, a "large portion" of the staffers flew out Sunday morning to Spain's Canary Islands. Morocco had issued a three-day deadline to expel 84 people, including U.N. civilian staffers at the U.N. Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara and three members of the African Union.

Morocco is also terminating its $3 million funding for the U.N. operation.

The spat came after U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon's use of the term "occupation" in describing the territorial status of the Western Sahara, under Moroccan control since 1975.

U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric described the order as "unprecedented."