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05RABAT896 2005-04-29 17:23:00 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Rabat
Cable title:  

MOROCCO POLITICAL HIGHLIGHTS

Tags:   KDEM KPKO KTFN MO PGOV PREL PTER SNAR 
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1. (U) In Jakarta for the April 22-23 Africa-Asia summit, PM
Jettou signed the new African-Asian strategic partnership
declaration calling for collective action to address common
issues like terrorism, weapons of mass destruction, and
organized crime, and committing countries to meeting
internationally agreed targets for poverty eradication,
development, and growth, according to the Morocco Times. The
declaration also expresses support to the Palestinian people
for the creation of a viable and sovereign state, pledges
solidarity with the Tsunami victims, and agrees to establish
a tsunami warning system to prevent future disasters. To
institutionalize the partnership, foreign ministers from the
two continents will meet every two years and heads of state
every four. Jettou read a statement from King Mohammed VI at
the conference. French-language daily L'Economiste reported
that Jettou met with Algerian President Bouteflika on the
margins of the conference to discuss ways to enhance
bilateral cooperation in all areas and encourage broader
Maghreb cooperation. Jettou also met with Libyan FM Shalgham
to discuss Moroccan-Libyan relations. FM Benaissa reportedly
attended both meetings.



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HUMAN RIGHTS


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2. (C) EU Standing Pat on Lmrabet: Dutch DCM Caroline
Vejiers told Polcouns April 29 that EU DCMs had met recently
to discuss whether to intervene on behalf of controversial
French-Morocco journalist Ali Lmrabet, recently banned from
publishing in Morocco for ten years (Ref A). The consensus
among the EU group was not to intervene at this time,
although all were concerned about the implications of the
case for press freedom in Morocco. Vejiers said there was
concern within the group about raising a ruckus over one
individual who deliberately seeks to provoke the Palace
(Concerning the issue of press freedom, we note that Morocco
drop a few notches in Freedom House's just released annual
survey of global press freedom).



3. (U) Justice Cooperation with UAE: On the heels of King
Mohammed's visit to the UAE April 26-28, Morocco has
reportedly agreed to put a group of judges at the disposal of
the UAE to expand cooperation in the judicial sector. MOJ
Bouzoubaa, who accompanied the King during the visit, also
announced that he and his counterpart reviewed the
possibility of holding a seminar to discuss the family code
in light of Morocco's experience with the new reform.



4. (U) Morocco Reelected to UN Human Rights Commission:
Morocco was among 15 states elected to the UN Human Rights
Commission for a three-year mandate on April 27. Botswana,
Cameroon, and Zimbabwe were also nominated to sit on the UN
Human Rights Commission by the African Group of countries.



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KING DEMANDS CHARITIES AUDIT


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5. (U) Following King Mohammed VI,s celebrated surprise
visit and inspection on April 2 of Morocco's oldest orphanage
at Ain Chock (in Casablanca), after which the King denounced
the deplorable sanitary and living conditions of the
orphanage, the Minister of Social Development, Family and
Solidarity, Abderrahim Harouchi, and the Moroccan charitable
umbrella organization, L,Entraide nationale, conducted an
audit of Morocco's 500 orphanages.. In a press conference on
April 26, Harouchi said the audit found that thirty-seven of
the orphanages provided miserable living conditions similar
to those uncovered by the King and Harouchi at Ain Chock, and
will need an allocation of some USD 7 million to raise living
conditions to acceptable standards. A further 231 orphanages
were determined to be in fair operating condition, but would
need a further USD 7.8 million to provide acceptable service.
One hundred forty-two institutions were judged to provide
satisfactory living, social, and educational services. In
all, Morocco's 500 orphanages are home to some 47,000
inhabitants. (Note: Harouchi is also president of Moroccan
NGO AFAK, which is a former beneficiary of the Mission's
small grants program. Among other activities, the Mission
funded AFAK to provide a public awareness campaign about
reforms to the family code. End Note).



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MOJ BOUZOUBAA AT BANGKOK CONFERENCE


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





6. (U) Speaking on the margins of the UN's 11th Congress on
Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice on April 23 in
Thailand, Justice Minister Mohamed Bouzoubaa said that
Morocco is launching a "multi-dimensional" strategy to fight
organized crime and is upgrading its penal tools by enhancing
the independence of its judicial system, which will guarantee
fair trials and protect the rule of law, according to
Morocco's official news agency, Maghreb Arabe Presse (MAP).
He announced that Morocco was introducing legislation to
bring the country into compliance with international
conventions on terrorism, illegal immigration, money
laundering, drug and arms trafficking, cyber crime, and
corruption. Bouzoubaa also reportedly met with counterparts
from Indonesia, Portugal, Thailand, and Turkey while in
Bangkok to discuss ways to enhance bilateral justice
cooperation and information sharing.



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NARCOTICS


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7. (U) Eight Tons Seized in Casablanca: Following
Casablanca's record 16-ton drug seizure on April 7 (Ref B),
according to MAP, Casablanca port authorities seized another
8.5 tons of hashish on April 16 that was hidden among some
22,000 packages in a purported shipment of small marble
plaques on board a truck registered to "PRONATU Maroc" in
Kenitra (50 kilometers north of Rabat). Police are looking
for the firm's Spanish owner who disappeared after the
incident. The drugs reportedly have a street value of 80
million Dirhams (USD 9.4 million). PRONATU Maroc specializes
in the construction industry.



8. (U) 2.8 Tons in Saadia: On April 22, the Moroccan Navy
seized 2.8 tons of chira (a hashish derivative) in a midnight
operation in the eastern Mediterranean area of Saadia,
according to MAP. The drugs were confiscated on board a
small boat that was located six nautical miles off the
Moroccan coast. The three passengers, including two
Spaniards and one Moroccan, were arrested.



9. (U) Jet Ski Smuggling: Demonstrating the increasing
creativity of Morocco's drug traffickers, the Spanish Civil
Guard arrested two Moroccans (one of whom was a minor) on
April 28 near the Spanish port of Algesiras after they were
intercepted aboard a jet ski in an attempt to smuggle 100
kilos of hashish into Spain, according to MAP. An echo radar
that captured the movement of a small-engined object
traveling at high speeds in the middle of the night
reportedly tipped off the Civil Guard to the shipment. The
two suspects reportedly were found suffering from symptoms of
hypothermia when stopped by the Civil Guard.



10. (U) Cocaine Traffickers Arrested: On April 19,
according to MAP, the Moroccan police dismantled two "cocaine
trafficking rings operating between the cities of Fez and
Casablanca and northern Morocco. Six individuals were
arrested and charged with possession, consumption, and
trafficking in hard drugs. The police also reportedly seized
over "1,000 doses" of cocaine, and are searching for another
14 individuals linked to the case.



11. (U) Trafficker Arrested in Tetouan: The Moroccan police
in Tetouan arrested on April 27 a suspected cocaine and
heroine trafficker in Tetouan's Boujrah neighborhood,
according to MAP. MAP did not reveal the trafficker's
identity, but reported his alias was "Debana." His arrest
follows that of several of his accomplices. Debana
reportedly acquired the drugs in the nearby Spanish enclave
of Ceuta (Sebta in Arabic).



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SPANISH DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER VISITS MOROCCO


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12. (U) Spanish deputy prime minister Maria Teresa Fernandez
de la Vega led a two-day "working visit" to Morocco on April
25-26, according to media sources. Fernandez discussed
bilateral relations, illegal immigration issues, and economic
cooperation with PM Jettou, Minister of Communications Nabil
Benabdellah, and Parliament Speaker Abdelwahed Radi during
the visit. Fernandez told reporters that Morocco represents
a "fundamental axis" in Spanish foreign policy, and she
applauded the King's visit to Madrid on the occasion of the
one-year anniversary of the March 11 bombings as a "gesture
of solidarity that the Spanish people will never forget." In
an interview with Moroccan daily Le Matin, Fernandez stated
that the Western Sahara is not a "hindrance" to
Spanish-Morocco relations. "We think we need not limit
ourselves to making rhetorical statements about this issue,"
she said, "nor remain under the umbrella of the United
Nations without bringing an active contribution...to solving
a dispute that has lingered for many years."



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2004 RECORD ON HUMAN SMUGGLING


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13. (U) Speaking at his weekly oral and written question
session at parliament on April 27, Interior Minister El
Mustapha Sahel said the Moroccan government dismantled 425
human smuggling networks in 2004, representing a 60-percent
increase over its performance in 2003, according to MAP.
Sahel indicated that the GOM arrested 26,000 candidates to
illegal immigration last year, including 9,000 Moroccans and
17,000 others, mostly from Sub-Saharan Africa. He noted that
through the first quarter in 2005, the GOM has arrested a
total of 7,600 would-be illegal immigrants, including 6,000
from Sub-Saharan countries. Additionally, according to the
Interior Ministry, 1,148 persons were arrested and convicted
in 2004 for migrant smuggling and human smuggling offenses,
including so-called "organizers" and "facilitators." They
received prison sentences from two to five years.



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WEBSITE FOR AMU PRESS


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14. (U) MAP reported that the Arab Maghreb Union's (AMU)
pool of news agencies launched its joint web site on April 15
in compliance with the recommendations of the 13th conference
of the pool's general assembly, held on March 31-April 1 in
Nouakchott. The web site can be found at www.pooluma.org.



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MEPI IMPLEMENTERS


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15. (SBU) CRS Closes Its Doors: Following the visit this
week of the organization's Beirut-based Regional Director,
Catholic Relief Services (CRS) has decided to scale back its
activities in Morocco after 49 years of working in the rural
areas in Morocco. CRS Director Suzanne Manzer told mission
officers April 28 that CRS traditionally focuses on poor
countries, and Morocco no longer qualified as such in CRS
thinking. The only program CRS would try to continue, Manzer
said, was its MEPI-funded project in Al Haouz province
outside of Marrakech, aimed at promoting democratic
strengthening and effective local government. Manzer said
that CRS planned to apply for a second year of funding from
MEPI and bring a project manager from the CRS office in Cairo
to continue the project. Manzer expects to depart Morocco
this summer after three years as Country Director and will
not be replaced.



16. (SBU) IRI Organizing Turkish MP Event: In an April 27
meeting with the Ambassador, International Republican
Institute (IRI) resident director for Morocco, Sarah Johnson,
said its Ref B program to bring three Turkish
parliamentarians from Turkey's ruling Islamist party to meet
with Moroccan parties, including the Islamist Party for
Justice and Development (PJD), has been set for May 12-16.
Although the schedule has not yet been finalized, Johnson
informed the Ambassador that IRI is organizing a multi-party
event at parliament on May 13 and that May 14 has been set
aside for one-on-one meetings with the PJD. Johnson told
Poloff separately that in a courtesy meeting with Turkish
first secretary Turker Ari on April 28, Ari pushed for the
Turkish Embassy to play a prominent role in the event as it
sought to win points in the area of democracy promotion.
Johnson said Ari seemed to want to link the event to the G8's
Broader Middle East and North Africa (BMENA) initiative and
to take full credit on behalf of the Turkish government. He
pressed her hand on IRI's funding sources and wanted the
Turkish Embassy to "facilitate" IRI's official invitation to
the event to the Moroccan parliament. Johnson informed him
that IRI is an independent American NGO with a variety of
funding sources, and that its work is unrelated to the G8 or
the BMENA process. She respectfully declined Ari's offer to
assist but said she would be interested in collaborating on
other events in the future.



17. (SBU) ABA Gets Down to Programming: The American Bar
Association (ABA) office in Rabat, which opened its doors in
September 2004, has obtained approval from its Washington
office to establish a second human rights law clinic in
Morocco. Following this approval, ABA will partner with the
Law Faculty at Sale (Rabat's sister city), and plans to
establish a human rights law clinic at the University of
Mohammedia (near Casablanca) for this DRL-funded project.
Meanwhile, ABA has also completed its assessment of the
structure and operation of the judicial system in Morocco and
reported to Poloff on April 17, that it is close to signing a
memorandum of understanding with the Ministry of Justice to
begin program activities on its MEPI-funded programs in the
areas of judicial education and training, criminal law and
development, judicial outreach and confidence building, and
women in the law.



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RESEAU MAILLAGE EXPANDS IN TEMARA, PLANS MAY 16 EVENTS


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18. (SBU) Moroccan youth organization Reseau Maillage
leader, Ahmed Ghayet, told Poloff that a third member
association was created in Temara (outside Rabat) on April


28. The new association brings the total number of Maillage
adherents in the 60,000-person economically depressed city to
100 youths. The new group, which is made up of mostly 17- to
18-year olds, is known as the "babies of Maillage" within the
national association, Ghayet noted. Ghayet said the Maillage
associations were planning another series of events to
commemorate the third anniversary of the May 16 terrorist
bombings in Casablanca. He indicated that Maillage hopes to
assemble a group of young Americans, Moroccans, and Spaniards
-- corresponding to the "common suffering" their countries
were subjected to in the 9/11, May 16, and March 11, 2004
terrorist attacks in New York, Casablanca, and Madrid -- to
participate in the events. The program will kick off with
the delivering of flowers to Hotel Farah (one of the May 16
attack sites) in Casablanca, and include an exposition of
youth art in May 16 Plaza with musical accompaniment.
RILEY