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Western Sahara

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Western Sahara

الصحراء الغربية (Arabic)
Sahara Occidental (Spanish)
Location of Western Sahara
and largest city
El Aaiún (Laâyoune)[1][2][3][4]
Official languages see respective claimants
Berber and Hassaniya Arabic are locally spoken.

Spanish and French are widely used.
Demonym(s) Western Saharan
Disputed sovereignty1
• Relinquished by Spain
14 November 1975
• Total
266,000 km2 (103,000 sq mi) (76th)
• Water (%)
• 2009 estimate
513,000[5] (168th)
• Density
1.9/km2 (4.9/sq mi) (237th)

Western Sahara (Arabic: الصحراء الغربية; Amazigh: Tanẓṛuft Tutrimt; Spanish: Sahara Occidental) is a territory in Africa. To the north is Morocco, to the east is Algeria, to the south is Mauritania, and to the west is the Atlantic Ocean. Its surface is 266,000 square kilometres (103,000 sq mi). It is one of the most sparsely populated territories in the world. Most of the territory is made of desert flatlands. The largest city is Laâyoune. More than half the population live there. The territory has a population estimated at just more than 500,000.[5]

Western Sahara has been on the United Nations list of non-self-governing territories since the 1960s when it was a Spanish colony.[7] The Kingdom of Morocco and the Polisario Front independence movement, with its Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic (SADR) government, both want to control of the territory.

Since a United Nations-sponsored ceasefire agreement in 1991, most of the territory has been controlled by Morocco, backed by France[source?], and the rest by the Polisario/SADR, backed by Algeria.[8] Many important countries have pressed both parties to agree to a peaceful solution. Both Morocco and Polisario have tried to get recognition form other countries. Polisario has won formal recognition for SADR from 81 states, and was extended membership in the African Union, while Morocco has won recognition for its position from the Arab League.[9][10] In both instances, recognitions have over the past two decades been extended and withdrawn according to changing international trends.

Some countries say that the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic should be the government in Western Sahara. Morocco says that they own it. The Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic was made by the "Polisario Front" a group of people who wanted Spain to leave, but now want Morocco to leave also.

The United Nations calls all of the Western Sahara a dependency of Spain.[11]


  1. "Regions and territories: Western Sahara". BBC. 9 November 2010. Retrieved 25 November 2010.
  2. "Q&A: Western Sahara clashes". BBC. 8 November 2010. Retrieved 25 November 2010.
  3. Jensen, Erik (2005). Western Sahara: Anatomy Of A Stalemate. International Peace Academy Occasional Paper Series. Lynne Rienner Publishers. p. 48. ISBN 1588263053 .
  4. "Western Sahara". Encyclopædia Britannica Online. 2010. Retrieved 25 November 2010.
  5. 5.0 5.1 Department of Economic and Social Affairs Population Division (2009) (PDF). World Population Prospects, Table A.1. 2008 revision. United Nations. Retrieved 12 March 2009.
  6. Ahmed R. Benchemsi and Mehdi Sekkouri Alaoui. "Au cœur du polisario". Telquel. Retrieved 23 September 2011. "Tout cela se paie en dinars algériens"
  7. Whitfield, Teresa. Friends Indeed?: The United Nations, Groups of Friends, and the Resolution of Conflict. 2007, page 191.
  8. Baehr, Peter R. The United Nations at the End of the 1990s. 1999, page 129.
  9. Arab League supports Morocco's Territorial Integrity, Arabic News, Morocco-Regional, Politics, January 8, 1999. Retrieved August 24, 2006.
  10. Arab League Withdraws Inaccurate Moroccan maps, Arabic News, Regional-Morocco, Politics, December 17, 1998. Retrieved August 24, 2006.
  11. UN General Assembly Resolution 34/37 and UN General Assembly Resolution 35/19

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