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UK and Spain press Morocco on Sahara raid

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UK and Spain press Morocco on Sahara raid

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Britain has called for an end to violence in the disputed territory of Western Sahara, after a raid on Monday by Moroccan security forces on a protest camp set up by refugees.

Separatists from the Polisario Front said dozens of protesters were killed. Morocco said only 12 people died.

“On the events of recent days, the UK has asked its representatives in the area to monitor it very carefully and we would call on all parties to do everything they can to ensure there is no more violence,” said the British foreign office minister Alistair Burt, during a visit to Algiers.

In Spain, which saw demonstrations earlier this week against the raid, Madrid has demanded an explanation from Rabat.

A Spanish citizen is thought to be among those killed. The organisation Reporters Without Borders
claims journalists have been prevented from visiting the area.

Spain’s prime minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, whose government has been accused of indifference towards its former colony, is on the defensive.

“The (Spanish position is the) most responsible, suitable and prudent for the resolution of the conflict and also for Spain’s interests. And Spain’s interests are what the government has to put above all,” he said.

The camp has been the biggest protest against 35 years of Moroccan rule in Western Sahara.

Long-deadlocked negotiations between the two sides ended earlier this week without agreement.