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Morocco says US military exercises to be held in Western Sahara

RABAT, Morocco — The Moroccan prime minister has said that US-led multi-nation African military exercises this month would take place in the disputed desert region of Western Sahara.

Last year, under former US president Donald Trump, Washington recognized Moroccan sovereignty over Western Sahara — after Rabat normalized relations with Israel — sparking anger from the separatist Polisario Front.

The military training, which the US Africa Command (Africom) says is its largest annual exercise, “marks the consecration of American recognition of the Moroccan Sahara,” Moroccan Prime Minister Saad-Eddine El Othmani said on Twitter last week.

Africom says the “African Lion” exercise will involve more than 7,000 troops from nine nations, without giving further details of contributing countries.

Morocco laid claim to the Western Sahara, a former Spanish colony with rich phosphate resources and offshore fisheries, after Spain withdrew in 1975.

But the Polisario Front took up arms to demand independence there, proclaiming the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic (SADR) in 1976 and fighting a 16-year war with Morocco.

Morocco has offered Western Sahara autonomy, but maintains the territory is a sovereign part of the kingdom.

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