Obama pressed to take sides in North African dispute

Nine former U.S. ambassadors wrote to President Obama this week to urge him to take a stance in a long-simmering dispute between U.S. counterterrorism allies Morocco and Algeria.

The former ambassadors to Morocco said Obama should use Friday's visit by King Mohammed VI to throw his weight behind a Moroccan plan to grant more autonomy to the disputed Western Sahara to its south, which it annexed in 1975. Algeria supports the independence-seeking Polisario Front and has opposed Morocco's plan.

U.S. help to Morocco “should begin with US efforts to support Morocco’s common sense and legitimate effort to resolve the problem in Western Sahara by granting the territory broad autonomy under Moroccan sovereignty,” the ambassadors wrote. 

“It is time for the US to make clear in the UN Security Council and elsewhere that this is the only realistic way to resolve this issue so that the international community can move on to more urgently needed solutions to the more pressing problems in the region,” they wrote. “It is also a crucial time for the US to assist Morocco with the implementation of its ambitious regionalization plan, which devolves substantial political power to democratically elected local officials and implements programs that will make it a model for others in the region.”

Tensions have been rising between Morocco and Algeria, with Morocco recalling its ambassador for consultations last month. Both countries have remained stable amid the turmoil unleashed across the region by the Arab Spring and are key U.S. allies in the fight against Islamist militants.

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Morocco letter to Obama

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