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Ban Warns of 'Full-Scale War' in Western Sahara if UN Mission Not Restored

FILE - Protesters hold a banner and the Moroccan flag at a rally in Rabat, Morocco, March 13, 2016, as they accuse U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon of "abandoning neutrality, objectivity and impartiality" during a recent visit to Western Saharan refugee camps.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon is urging the Security Council to restore the full peacekeeping mission in Western Sahara, warning of full-scale war if the mandate is not renewed.

Ban said in a report to the council that "terrorists and radical elements" can be expected to exploit the situation after Morocco expelled 83 U.N. staffers from Western Sahara last month.

"The risk of a rupture of the cease-fire and resumption of hostilities, with its attendant danger of escalation into full-scale war, will grow significantly in the event that MINURSO [the U.N. peacekeeping mission] is forced to depart or find itself unable to execute the mandate that the Security Council has set," he said.

The Security Council plans to vote next month on a one-year extension of the mission that began in 1991 to monitor a cease-fire between Morocco and independence fighters from the Polisario Front.

Morocco annexed Western Sahara in 1975 and considers it part of its territory.

During a recent visit to a camp in Algeria for Western Saharan refugees, Ban infuriated Morocco by calling it an "occupation."

Morocco responded by expelling 83 U.N. staffers and shutting down a military liaison office, severely hobbling the mission.

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