wikileaks ico  Home papers ico  Cables mirror and Afghan War Diary privacy policy  Privacy
IdentifierCreatedClassificationOrigin
05RABAT1809 2005-08-26 17:03:00 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Rabat
Cable title:  

MOROCCO POLITICAL HIGHLIGHTS

Tags:   PREL PGOV PTER SNAR MO 
pdf how-to read a cable


1. (SBU) Table of Contents

- Early Reactions to Algeria's New Ambassador to Morocco
- King Mohammed VI Receives King of Bahrain
- King Pardons Underage Would-Be Suicide Bomber Twins
- International Community Pleased with Tindouf POW Release
- PJD and USFP Clash over Cultural Festivals
- Narcotics News
- Illegal Immigration Roundup



--------------------------



--------------------------


EARLY REACTIONS TO ALGERIA'S NEW AMBASSADOR TO MOROCCO


--------------------------



--------------------------





2. (C) Following several weeks of rumors, Algeria officially
appointed Presidential Chief of Staff (and former Army
General) Larbi Belkheir Ambassador to Morocco on August 25,
according to local press reports. Contacts tell us that
despite Belkheir's years of service in the Algerian military,
he is regarded within Moroccan foreign policy circles as a
"man of dialogue," particularly with respect to bilateral
relations with Morocco. While Morocco is generally wary of
Algerian officials with military backgrounds, the King
reportedly approved Belkheir's agrement the same day. One
MFA official, Multilateral Affairs Director Mohamed
Loulichki, sounded a more pessimistic note, telling Polcouns
that Morocco expected that Bouteflika would keep Belkheir on
a tight leash, and scoffing at notions that Belkheir was more
sympathetic to Morocco than other members of Bouteflika's
circle. Post will report further reactions septel.



--------------------------


KING MOHAMMED VI RECEIVES KING OF BAHRAIN


--------------------------





3. (U) King Mohammed VI received King Hamad Ben Issa Al
Khalifa of Bahrain at the Royal Palace in Tetouan on August
23, according to Morocco's official news agency, Maghreb
Arabe Presse (MAP). The two leaders reportedly discussed
ways to improve bilateral relations and the implications of
Israel's withdrawal from the Gaza strip.



--------------------------



--------------------------


KING PARDONS UNDERAGE WOULD-BE SUICIDE BOMBER TWINS


--------------------------



--------------------------





4. (U) On the occasion of the Revolution of the King and the
People on August 20, the King pardoned the 16-year old twin
sisters that were sentenced to 5 years in prison in January
2004 on charges they belonged to a Rabat terrorist group and
volunteered to serve as suicide bombers (ref A), according to
the English-language Morocco Times website. In an interview
with Morocco Times, the twins expressed deep regret at having
been caught up in fundamentalist ideology and vowed to live a
normal life free of extremism. The sisters explained that
poverty and a divided family contributed to their decision to
turn to extremism. The twins were transferred upon their
release to the Childhood Protection Center in Casablanca
where a judge decided they will remain until they reach the
age of 18 or are claimed by their families. The sentencing
of the twins had caused widespread anguish in Moroccan
society.



--------------------------

---
INTERNATIONAL COMMUNITY PLEASED WITH POW RELEASE


--------------------------

---



5. (U) The United Nations, European Union, France, and
Amnesty International have issued public statements since
August 18 commending the release of the 404 Moroccan POWs in
the Tindouf camps by the Polisario, according to MAP. UNSYG
Kofi Annan and Amnesty International called the release a
"positive step," while France and the EU expressed a desire
that the release would lead to a final negotiated solution to
the conflict.



--------------------------


PJD AND USFP CLASH OVER CULTURAL FESTIVALS


--------------------------





6. (U) The Socialist Union of Popular Forces party (USFP)
and the Islamist Party for Justice and Development (PJD) have
been waging a media war over the role of cultural festivals
in Morocco through various media outlets since July. The
clash began after the Movement of Unity and Reform (MUR), a
conservative wing within the PJD, released a statement
criticizing the "ethical drifts" (such as hashish smoking)
that occur at these festivals and calling them places of
debauchery. In tit-for-tat fashion, the Minister of Culture,
Mohammed Achaari, a senior USFP member, stated in an
interview with French-language daily Aujourd'hui le Maroc
that Islamists are "against modernity." Minister Achaari
defended the rights of young Moroccans to challenge those who
would impose their morality on others. The editor-in-chief
of the PJD-affiliated, Arabic daily Attajdid, Abdelilah
Benkirane, responded with an article indicating that MUR has
a right to bring to the attention of its readers the
"illegal" behavior that takes place during festivals. The
PJD-USFP media war is reminiscent of a similar clash between
the two parties in February 2005 when Attajdid carried
articles claiming that Muslim victims of the tsunami in
Southeast Asia were being punished by God for inappropriate
behavior.



--------------------------


NARCOTICS


--------------------------





7. (U) The province of Larache in northern Morocco will be
declared "cannabis-free" on September 12, according to
French-language daily Aujourd'hui le Maroc. The official
ceremony marking the occasion will be overseen by a
delegation from the European Commission as well as Minister
of Interior Al Mostapha Sahel and Director of Agency for the
Development of the Northern Provinces Driss Benhima. The
government has reportedly destroyed some 3,697 hectares of
cannabis in the campaign.



--------------------------


ILLEGAL IMMIGRATION


--------------------------





8. (U) In two separate operations between August 20-22, the
Royal Navy seized 109 would-be illegal immigrants off the
coast of Al Hoceima in northern Morocco, according to MAP.
All 109 suspects, who were attempting to illegally emigrate
to Spain, were turned over to the Gendarmerie Royale for
medical attention, investigation, and legal procedure.
RILEY