A mainly desert territory in north-west Africa, Western Sahara is the subject of a decades-long dispute between Morocco and the Algerian-backed Polisario Front.
• Territory: Western Sahara
• Status: Disputed territory claimed by Morocco and Saharawis seeking self-determination
• Population: 260,000 (estimate)
• Main town: Laayoune
• Area: 252,120 sq km (97,344 sq miles)
• Major language: Arabic
• Major religion: Islam
• Life expectancy: 62 years (men), 66 years (women) (UN)
• Economic resources: Phosphate deposits, fishing, possibly oil
• Currency in use: Moroccan dirham
The territory is phosphate-rich and believed to have offshore oil deposits. Most of it has been under Moroccan control since 1976.
Western Sahara fell under Spanish rule in 1884, becoming a Spanish province in 1934. Nationalism emerged in the 1960s, as nomadic Saharans, or Saharawis, settled in the region.
Polisario was set up on 10 May 1973 and established itself as the sole representative of the Saharan people. Some 100,000 refugees still live in Polisario's camps in Algeria.BBC