Moroccan King visits Western Sahara city

RABAT – Morocco's King Mohammed VI started a three-day visit to Dakhla, the second largest city in the Western Sahara, which stands at the center of a dispute between the Moroccan government and the rebel Polisario Front.

The monarch is expected to perform the Friday prayer at one of the city's mosques, according to a source from the Royal Advisory Council for Saharan Affairs.

The King will also inaugurate a major port in southern Dakhla as well as a free trade zone, the source said, adding that the zone will be specified for trade exchange, particularly with western African countries.

The Moroccan King's visit to the city comes on the eve of a U.N. Security Council session to vote on a resolution on the Western Sahara.

The council is also expected to vote later in April on a resolution for extending the mandate of the U.N. Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara (MINURSO).

Founded in 1991, the mission seeks to keep peace in the area.

A dispute between the Moroccan government and Polisario Front over Western Sahara evolved into an armed conflict in 1975 after the Spanish pulled out their troops from the region.  A U.N. brokered ceasefire between the two sides was signed in 1991.

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