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Polisario leader’s death leaves contested Western Sahara in limbo

The death on 31 May of Mohammed Abdelaziz, leader of the Frente Popular de Liberación de Saguía El Hamra y Río de Oro (Polisario Front) since 1976 and president of the Sahrawi liberation movement’s government-in-exile, the Saharan Arab Democratic Republic (SADR), is unlikely to significantly affect the dispute over the contested former Spanish Sahara. Polisario’s diplomatic campaign for a United Nations-led referendum to be held on the territory’s future as an independent state or integral part of Morocco will continue. However, Morocco remains implacable in its determination to retain what it calls its right to sovereignty over the disputed colony, whose capital, El Ayoun, booming second city, Dakhla, the Phos-Boucraa phosphate company and other parts of the “useful Sahara” remain firmly under its control.

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