News / World

Morocco asks to re-join African Union after 4 decades

ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia — Morocco has officially submitted a request to join the African Union again after more than four decades, the continental body said Friday. Morocco is the only country on the continent that is not a member.

Morocco quit the AU in 1975 after disagreements over mineral-rich Western Sahara, which the AU recognizes as an independent state but Morocco considers as its "southern provinces."

A Moroccan foreign affairs adviser handed a copy of the government's request to African Union Commission Chairwoman Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma on Thursday, an AU statement said.

Dlamini- Zuma said member states will be informed and Morocco's king will be notified of the outcome, the statement said.

Morocco annexed Western Sahara, a former Spanish colony, in 1975.

In the past year, the Moroccan government has dealt harshly with those it perceives as undermining its claims on the territory, including the European Union and the United Nations.

In March, Morocco expelled more than 70 civilian staffers with a U.N. peacekeeping force in Western Sahara to protest Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon's perceived gaffe in using the word "occupation" to describe Morocco's annexation. Some of the staffers have since returned.

The U.N. brokered a cease-fire in Western Sahara between Morocco and the Polisario Front independence movement in 1991. The U.N. peacekeeping force is meant to monitor the cease-fire and help prepare a referendum on the territory's future, which has never taken place.