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Senegal, Morocco withdraw envoys in diplomatic spat

Reuters    Translate This Article
22 December 2007

DAKAR, Dec 22 (Reuters) - Senegal and Morocco have recalled their ambassadors for consultations in a diplomatic dispute over a Senegalese former foreign minister's comments backing an independent Western Saharan state, officials said on Saturday.

Senegal instructed its ambassador to return for talks late on Friday after Morocco withdrew its own envoy this week for three days in protest at comments made by ex-minister Jacques Baudin, a member of the opposition Senegalese Socialist Party.

Rabat condemned as 'hostile' the statement this week by Baudin in which he praised the independence struggle in the Western Sahara of the Polisario Front, which has fought Morocco's 1975 annexation of the northwest African territory.

But Senegalese President Abdoulaye Wade's government expressed anger at Morocco's withdrawal of its ambassador, saying the Moroccan diplomat was accredited to the state of Senegal and not the opposition Socialist Party.

'The recall of the Moroccan ambassador to Senegal is an unfriendly gesture towards the Senegalese people (...) and Senegal, while waiting for clarification, is calling back its ambassador in Morocco for consultation,' an official statement released in the Senegalese capital Dakar said.

Senegal has maintained cordial relations with Morocco. Wade's Senegalese Democratic Party (PDS), which in a 2000 election ended the Socialist Party's 40 years of rule, has supported Morocco's offer of autonomy for the Western Sahara.

But some strains in the relationship have emerged recently.

In October, Senegal's government retook control of the national airline Air Senegal from Moroccan carrier Royal Air Maroc after what it said were heavy financial losses.

(Reporting by Diadie Ba; Editing by Pascal Fletcher)

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