Dozens of United Nations international staffers pulled out of their Western Sahara mission on Sunday after Morocco demanded they leave because of Ban Ki-Moon's remarks about the disputed territory, Morocco's state news agency and a source said.

MAP state news agency said a "significant number" of U.N. staffers had left Laayoune airport in U.N. aircraft and commercial flights to Las Palmas in Spain.

The source said 73 U.N. staffers had left, 10 would leave in the afternoon and one would remain for now.

Rabat accused Ban earlier this month of no longer being neutral in the Western Sahara dispute.

Morocco said he used the word "occupation" to describe its annexation of the region at the center of a struggle since 1975, when Morocco took over from colonial power Spain.