ALGIERS: The United Nations on Thursday (Aug 18) said it had found no sign of any suspicious military activity by Morocco in the disputed Western Sahara, after a separatist group complained about a Moroccan security operation in the region's far south.
The Polisario Front campaigning for the independence of the Western Sahara had protested to the UN about the operation earlier this week, claiming it had involved large numbers of military units and had taken them beyond the sand wall that marks Morocco's normal area of control.
Responding to the complaint, UN deputy spokesman Farhan Haq said the UN mission in the territory, MINURSO, had investigated the allegations and had "not observed military presence or equipment in the buffer strip".
"The mission observed what were assessed as civilian vehicles moving across the berm but was not able to determine additional information," he told reporters in New York.
"MINURSO continues its liaison with both parties in order to ascertain the facts with regards to the alleged incident."
Morocco said its operation in the Gargarate area north of Mauritania's second city Nouadhibou, which began on Sunday, was aimed at stopping cross-border smuggling, particularly of second-hand and stolen vehicles.
A 1991 ceasefire brokered by the United Nations that ended 16 years of conflict between Morocco and the Polisario left Morocco in control of all of the territory's main towns and the Polisario confined to a narrow strip of the desert interior.
The far south was left as a no-man's land with neither side having a permanent presence.
Rabat maintains that the Western Sahara is an integral part of Morocco, despite UN resolutions calling for a referendum on self-determination.
The UN said earlier this month it was preparing a "formal proposal" to jumpstart talks on settling the decades-old conflict over the Western Sahara, after four rounds of failed talks since 2007.