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IdentifierCreatedClassificationOrigin
05RABAT1072 2005-05-20 12:18:00 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Rabat
Cable title:  

MOROCCO POLITICAL HIGHLIGHTS

Tags:   KDEM PGOV KMPI PREL PHUM MO MOROCCO POLITICAL HIGHLIGHTS 
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1. (C) Norwegian Ambassador Returns: Emboffs were pleased
to greet the freshly groomed and chastened Norwegian
ambassador, Arne Aasheim, at Norway's National Day reception
on May 17. Aasheim returned to Morocco on May 15 after being
recalled to Oslo on May 4 to clarify public remarks on the
Western Sahara that deviated from Norwegian policy (reftel).
Ambassador Aasheim told Polcouns during a May 18 lunch with
visiting ASD Rodman that the television journalists who
interviewed him were "wolves in sheep's clothing" and had
pitched the discussion with him as a focus on Norwegian
fishing interests in the Western Sahara. Aasheim admitted,
however, that he had been somewhat "naive and outspoken" in
describing the Western Sahara as, for all intents and
purposes, part of Morocco. He added that pro-Polisario
support groups in Norway were limited in number but vocal and
influential. "They were calling for my crucifixion," Aasheim
said diving into his salad, clearly relishing being back at
the helm.



2. (C) Spanish Ambassador Urges Continued High-Level US
Engagement: Spanish Ambassador Luis Planas told Polcouns May
18 that, while he understood US reluctance to name a
high-level American successor to either former UN Personal
Envoy James Baker or former SRSG Alvaro de Soto, the US
needed to remain fully engaged in the Western Sahara; while
granting Spain's important role in searching for a solution,
Planas said no other country but the US can lead the way out
of the current dispute. Polcouns affirmed that the US was
indeed fully engaged in the search for a solution but
believed that it was up to the parties to demonstrate their
commitment and ability to move forward before the US would
support enlisting a high-level American envoy.



3. (SBU) Officials Gather in Laayoune to Express
Moroccan-ness: Sahrawi parliamentarians, NGOs, and
ex-Polisario met in Laayoune May 16 to proclaim the
"Moroccan-ness" of the Western Sahara. Moroccan media report
the gathering was convened partly to respond to recent
remarks by pro-Polisario activist Ali Salem Tamek in which
Tamek stated bluntly he was pro-Polisario and called on the
international community to press the Moroccans to quit the
Sahara. (Tamek's remarks were made on Moroccan soil and
carried in several Moroccan papers). Tamek's family members
in southern Morocco have subsequently denounced Tamek, and on
May 19 hosted a meeting of Sahrawi leaders at the family
residence in Assa to proclaim their allegiance to King
Mohammed and applaud the climate of democracy and openness in
the Kingdom of Morocco.



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MOROCCO AND ALGERIA IN BRASILIA: HUGS AND KISSES


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4. (C) Commenting on his recent trip to Brasilia to attend
the Arab-Latin American Summit, MFA Director of American
Affairs Salahuddin Tazi told Polcouns May 18 that Morocco had
done everything possible to moderate the Summit's final
declaration. He said Algerian President Bouteflika had
embarrassed himself "in Arab eyes" by his warm embrace of
Venezuelan President Chavez. As for interactions between the
Moroccan and Algerian delegations, Tazi said "we smothered
them with hugs and kisses." Tazi said being warm toward the
Algerians is an important investment, even as "we remain
skeptical about their actions."



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UK CONCERNS ABOUT STABILITY IN MAURITANIA


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5. (C) During a May 16 office call, British Embassy First
Secretary Adrian Chapman told Polcouns that UK Ambassador

SIPDIS
Warren-Gash had made his last trip to Nouakchott (Warren-Gash
is accredited to Mauritania) before departing post and had
come away "more concerned than ever" about political
stability in Mauritania. He said the Ambassador believed
that attempted coups and bloodshed could not be ruled out in
the near future.


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SPAIN DENIES TANK SALES TO MOROCCO


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6. (C) Spanish Polcouns Jorge Cabezas told Polcouns May 17
that press reports of military sales to Morocco of M-60
tanks, reported in Spanish newspaper La Razon on May 1, were
unfounded. He did note, however, that the GOS was in the
process of selling Morocco two patrol boats to augment GOM
capacity to monitor the Straits of Gibraltar.



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SEVEN TONS OF MOROCCAN-ORIGIN HASHISH SEIZED IN ALGECIRAS


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7. (U) Spanish police seized seven tons of cannabis resin in
the Spanish port of Algeciras on May 17, according to MAP.
The drugs were found stashed in a shipment of clothing on a
Tangier-registered truck. The shipment was reportedly
destined for France.



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JORDANIAN PM VISITS MOROCCO


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8. (SBU) On a May 15-17 state visit to Morocco, Jordanian PM
Adnan Badrane co-presided with Moroccan PM Jettou over the
Third Session of the Moroccan-Jordanian High Joint
Commission. The commission's work resulted in the signing of
seventeen bilateral agreements in multiple fields, including
tourism, culture, and education, but mostly in the area of
economic cooperation. Jordanian Embassy Consul Mohammed
Hmaid told Poloff May 20 that PM Badrane pressed Jettou to
remove Morocco's visa requirement for Jordanian visitors
(Note: Jordan does not have a visa requirement for Moroccans.
End Note). Hmaid said Jettou referred Jordan's request to
"higher authorities."



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POLITICAL PARTY DEVELOPMENTS


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9. (SBU) IRI Says Political Parties Thirsting for Internal
Democracy: Visiting American IRI trainer Tom Poff told
Polcouns after a week of IRI-funded workshops with political
parties that the middle ranks of Morocco's political parties
are frustrated with the leadership of their parties and
thirsting for greater internal democracy. He said while
party members are eager for more democracy they do not have
clear ideas on how to democratize their parties other than
through changing the senior leadership. He also said his
party contacts made clear that press freedom in Morocco was
greater than ever before and that buoyed their hopes for
greater democracy in the future.



10. (SBU) UMP Fusion to Happen "Sooner Than You Think:" In
a May 18 conversation with Poloff, Popular Movement (MP)
party member and advisor to the minister in the Ministry of
Agriculture, Mohammed Ouzzine, denied rumors of a conflict
between MP secretary general (and Minister of Agriculture)
Mohand Laenser and National Popular Movement (MNP) leader
Mahjoubi Aherdan. Ouzzine said the fusion of the two
Berber-based parties and the Democratic Union (UD) party into
the Popular Movement Union (UMP) would take place "sooner
than you think." Ouzzine commented that as the UMP's
clearest "rising star," Laenser is the "glue" that keeps the
three parties together. He claimed that the octogenarian
Aherdan, who is an accomplished artist, wants to leave
politics and immerse himself in his painting. Aherdan's
goal, indicated Ouzzine, is to redo the fusion that was
undone by multiple party splits since he founded the MNP in


1959. Ouzzine noted that UD secretary general Bouazza Ikken
is also committed to the fusion, but wants to ensure that it
is done the "right way;" that is, through the "front door"
and not the "window," Ouzzine explained.



11. (U) PPS Announces Party Congress: The former Communist
Party of Progress and Socialism (PPS) announced it will hold
its seventh national party congress in March 2006. The
party's director of external relations M'hammed Grine told
Poloff May 12 that PPS secretary general Ismail Alaoui, who
has led the party since 1997, will not step down until his
successor is designated after next year's congress. Grine
affirmed that the party, and the two other members of the
Socialist Alliance caucus (Social and Democratic Party and Al
Ahd), still intend to fuse into one before the 2007 elections.



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NEWSPAPERS SPAR OVER CONCLUSIONS OF AMERICAN DEMOCRACY EXPERT


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12. (U) In a tit-for-tat exchange of editorials this week,
Arabic-language dailies Attajdid (affiliated with the
Islamist Party for Justice and Development (PJD)) and Al
Ahdath Al Maghribiya (independent) sparred over comments
attributed to a visiting "senior American expert." (Comment:
The dailies did not specify but were probably referring to
Carnegie Endowment for International Peace democracy expert
Thomas Carothers who visited Morocco May 5-12 to conduct
research on political party development and international
programs to strengthen parties in the Middle East. Poloff
met with Carothers on May 6.) Attajdid claimed on May 18
that the "American expert" was "surprised" at the level of
popularity of the Moroccan PJD compared to Islamist parties
in Turkey and Indonesia. On May 19, Al Ahdath reprinted
Attajdid's May 18 article and commented: "The American expert
had a very positive impression of Moroccan political parties
but especially of the PJD, which has benefited a lot from
American funding...so it will not be a surprise from now on
to see the Moroccan fundamentalist party looking toward the
west after funding from the east has run out." Attajdid
denied in its May 20 edition ever receiving US money, and
instead accused "certain leftist parties in Morocco" of
benefiting from USG funding in the past.
RILEY