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BELGIUM - Review fishing pact, say lawyers

Published:Wednesday | February 24, 2010 | 2:00 AM

BRUSSELS (AP):

LAWYERS URGED the European Union (EU) yesterday to review its 2007 fishing accord with Morocco, saying it may be illegal to allow European fishermen to work off disputed Western Sahara.

The report by the EU Parliament's legal service echoed the finding of a 2008 United Nations report that questioned the EU-Morocco fishing deal for the same reason.

The EU pays Morocco about ?40 million (US$54 million) a year to let its fishermen work in its waters.

But EU vessels are known to work further south, off the Western Sahara, a disputed territory claimed by Morocco, said the EU report. It said none of the ?40 million benefits the Saharawi people, although interna-tional law requires that.

The EU has always argued it does not know how Morocco uses the EU funds and, therefore, cannot consider the deal in breach of international law. Western Sahara is a territory on North Africa's Atlantic coast. A former Spanish colony, it is claimed by Morocco which fought a war against the Polisario Front guerrillas until the two sides agreed to a cease-fire in 1991.

"The EU is financing Morocco's illegal occupation of Western Sahara," Mohammed Sidati, the Polisario Front's European affairs minister, told reporters.