* Latest setback in efforts to resolve dispute
* U.N. says has full confidence in envoy Ross
RABAT, May 17 (Reuters) - Morocco said on Thursday it had lost confidence in the U.N. envoy to the contested Western Sahara territory, in the latest in a long series of setbacks in efforts to settle a decades-old dispute over the region’s status.
Rabat accused envoy Christopher Ross of giving “biased and unbalanced guidance” and criticised a U.N. report, published last month, which had suggested Morocco may have been spying on the world body’s monitoring force.
The government statement carried by the official MAP news agency did not say whether Rabat would now refuse to work with Ross.
Reacting to Rabat’s announcement, U.N. spokesman Martin Nesirky said Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has complete confidence in Ross.
The dispute, dating back to 1975, pits Morocco, which says the Western Sahara is part of its territory, against the Algeria-backed Polisario Front, which says it is an independent state.
The United Nations brokered a settlement in 1991 with the understanding that a referendum would be held on the fate of the region. The referendum never took place and attempts to reach a lasting deal since then have foundered.
Western Sahara, a sparsely populated tract of desert about the size of Britain has phosphates, fisheries and, potentially, oil and gas.
“Morocco has decided to withdraw its confidence in the personal envoy of the United Nations Secretary General for the (Western) Sahara,” read the government statement.
It cited “abuses identified in the latest report of the U.N. Secretary General on the (Western) Sahara, the worn out process of negotiations which still offers no prospects or opportunities for progress and finally paradoxes raised in the actions of the Secretary General’s personal envoy Christopher Ross”. (Reporting By Souhail Karam; Additional reporting by Louis Charbonneau in New York; Editing by Andrew Heavens)