UN peacekeeping chief to visit disputed Western Sahara

The U.N. peacekeeping chief is heading to the disputed Western Sahara later this week to visit U.N. troops for the first time since Morocco expelled more than 70 U.N. civilian staffers in March to protest comments by Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.

Herve Ladsous said Tuesday he will visit Layoune, the largest city in Western Sahara, as well as camps for Sahrawi refugees in neighboring Tindouf, Algeria, and the Moroccan capital, Rabat.

He will be the highest-ranking U.N. official to visit the region since early March when Ban used the word "occupation" in talking about Morocco's involvement in Western Sahara. That led to demonstrations against Ban in Morocco and the government's decision to expel U.N. civilian workers.

Ladsous made the announcement after briefing the U.N. Security Council.