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UN chief regrets 'misunderstanding' over Western Sahara
[UNITED NATIONS, UNITED STATES] UN Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon's recent remarks about Western Sahara, which outraged Morocco and soured relations, were not deliberate and he regrets the "misunderstanding," his spokesman said Monday.
Morocco was infuriated when Mr Ban earlier this month referred to the "occupation" of Western Sahara, a disputed territory, during his visit to a refugee camp in Algeria.
"We regret the misunderstandings and consequences that this personal expression of solicitude provoked," spokesman Stephane Dujarric said.
"His use of the word was not planned, nor was it deliberate, it was a spontaneous, personal reaction."
Mr Ban's comments crossed a red line for Morocco, which considers the former Spanish territory, which it annexed in 1975, as an integral part of the country, proposing self-government for the region under Moroccan sovereignty.
In retaliation for the remark, Morocco expelled most of the civilian experts attached to the UN mission and closed a military liaison office.
Mr Dujarric stressed that Mr Ban had not intended to offend Morocco and that the United Nations, which is leading mediation efforts in the dispute, "has not and will not take sides on the issue of Western Sahara".