Morocco says determined to develop Western Sahara
Morocco is "more determined than ever" to develop the Western Sahara, Interior Minister Mohamed Hassad said Wednesday on a two-day visit to the disputed territory.
Rabat insists the former Spanish colony is an integral part of its kingdom, but the Algeria-based Polisario Front demands a referendum on self-determination there.
The two sides fought for control of the Western Sahara from 1974 to 1991, with Rabat gaining control of the territory before a UN-brokered ceasefire took effect.
"We are more determined than ever to continue to develop the Sahara region," Hassad told AFP.
"Unfortunately there are many people who don't like this, particularly the fact that we are building roads," he said, referring to the Polisario.
Hassad spoke after Morocco pulled back from the area of Guerguerat near the Mauritanian border in late February at the request of the United Nations.
Tensions flared last year after the Polisario set up a new military post in the same area.
That was in response to Morocco starting to build a tarmac road in the area south of the buffer zone separating Moroccan troops from Polisario fighters.
Rabat sees the road as key to trade between Morocco and sub-Saharan Africa.
Hassad said Morocco has invested around $8.5 billion (8.1 billion euros) in the territory in projects expected to create more than 10,000 jobs by 2021.
The projects include a university to teach medicine and a 1,000-kilometre (600-mile) highway along the coast, he said.