Morocco king in rare visit to W.Sahara before UN vote

Morocco's King Mohamed VI made a rare visit Thursday to the Western Sahara, ahead of a UN Security Council vote on the disputed territory, an AFP correspondent said.

The UN Security Council is due to vote on April 23 to renew the mandate of its peacekeeping mission in the Western Sahara, which was annexed by Morocco in the 1970s.

Earlier this month the king warned UN chief Ban Ki-moon of "perilous options" in the Western Sahara, saying the UN role there should remain unchanged.

Rights groups have been pressing the United Nations to task the peacekeepers with human rights monitoring, echoing calls made by the United States last year.

Morocco lobbied against the US last year and the resolution later passed called only for the "promotion and protection of human rights" in Western Sahara.

Morocco controls most of the territory and is highly sensitive to criticism of its policies there.

Mohamed's visit to Dakhla was the first by the king in years to the Western Sahara, and no official details were available on his programme.

But an AFP correspondent said he was expected to attend the weekly Muslim Friday prayers in the city.