Speaking at a ceremony on Saturday marking the 32nd anniversary of the creation of the Polisario Front, its leader Mohamed Abdelaziz said the people of Western Sahara were struggling by all legitimate means, including armed struggle, to gain their rights, Aljazeera reported.

"The Sahrawi people cannot remain indefinitely with their arms folded,"  an Algerian Press Agency report quoted him as saying.

Morocco annexed Western Sahara after former colonial ruler Spain pulled out of the large, phosphate-rich desert territory in 1975.

The Polisario Front took up arms for independence the following year.

Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika, for his part, congratulated the Polisario on the anniversary and pledged Algiers's continued support for the movement.

Bouteflika's statement of support came on the eve of the Arab Maghreb summit, scheduled to be held in Libya but now postponed after Morocco decided not to attend it.

Aljazeera also said that the organisation's functioning had been paralysed in recent years by the deadlock over the Western Sahara dispute.

Pressing appeal

A United Nations peacekeeping mission has been deployed in the region since the 1991 ceasefire, but international efforts to resolve the conflict between the two sides have failed.

Morocco seized Western Sahara
after Spain pulled out in 1975

Last month the UN Security Council extended the mission by six months and called on both sides to help clear up the fate of people who have vanished during the fighting.

"I am making a pressing appeal to the Moroccan government to follow the voice of wisdom and conform to international law," Abdelaziz said, branding as "dangerous" Rabat's rejection of a UN-backed proposal for a referendum on self-determination.

Morocco's King Mohamed VI had said in January that his country would never relinquish control of the Western Sahara.

Aljazeera has also reported that Moroccan prisoners, released by Polisario last year, have called for the release of about 408 of their colleagues still in detention, despite the cessation of hostilities 14 years ago.