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06RABAT1042 2006-05-31 18:49:00 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Rabat
Cable title:  

SCENESETTER FOR VISIT TO MOROCCO OF U/S KAREN

Tags:   EAID ECON KPAO MO PGOV PREL PTER 
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1. (C) The US Mission warmly welcomes your upcoming visit to
Morocco. Your visit comes as we and the Moroccan government
are further energizing the substantial reinvigoration of
bilateral relations that has taken place since the May 2003
terrorist attacks in Casablanca. Since the 2003 attacks,
Morocco has strengthened its commitment to working with the
international community to fight global terrorism and promote
widespread reforms, and cooperation with the US on both of
these fronts is excellent. We hope that your activities in
Morocco, which will highlight many aspects of the US-Morocco
partnership, will underscore to the Moroccan public the
importance the US attaches to our relationship with Morocco
and demonstrate interest in the lives of ordinary Moroccans.
Most importantly, your program has been designed to provide
illustrations of the components of our proposed pilot public
diplomacy strategy to combat violent extremism. The purpose
of this message is to provide background information on
overall US-Moroccan relations.

Reform


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





2. (C) Morocco is a regional leader in reform, and the
Moroccan leadership views reform and religious tolerance as
essential components in combating extremism and terrorism.
As such, and in keeping with the King's vision of a modern
monarchy, Morocco is pressing internal reform on all fronts:
on the political front, with recently passed legislation to
reform Moroccan political parties; in women's rights through
implementation of the family code (the "Moudawana") that
significantly boosts the rights of women and children; in the
media, with reform of the audiovisual sector; in education,
where USAID has launched a $40 million five-year program and
the GOM is partnering with the World Bank for a major push on
primary education; in the economic realm, with FTA
implementation and liberalization of the banking/financial
sector; and, in the religious field, where Morocco's Ministry
of Endowments and Islamic Affairs is restructuring mosques
and Islamic education to promote tolerance and moderation.
Morocco's Equity and Reconciliation Commission (IER),
established to examine human rights abuses between 1956 and
1999, completed its mandate in November 2005 and shortly
thereafter submitted its final report to the King, who
decreed that the findings would be made public, including the
commission's recommendations. Despite the GOM's efforts,
however, we hear persistent concerns that change is not
happening fast enough and that reform is almost entirely
driven by the Palace.



3. (C) The Ministry of Endowments and Islamic Affairs'
recent graduation of 150 male imams and 50 female
"mourchidats" (guides) has drawn much national and
international attention compelling Minister Ahmed Toufiq to
clarify that the "mourchidats" will not be responsible for
the same duties as the male imams. In a public declaration
in late May, Toufiq emphasized that an imam's "mission" is
regulated by the sharia (Islamic law) and should not be
confused with the role of mourchidat. He stressed that the
role of imam is to be reserved exclusively for men. Instead,
the 50 female graduates will be in charge of "operating in
the mosques," which will include teaching. Both imams and
mourchidats will be able to give courses in different
"Islamic sciences," and to teach the concepts of the sharia
(with imams teaching imams and mourchidats training
mourchidats). The second tranche of candidates, 160 men and
60 women, began their annual program on May 15. We hope to
be able to send a select few of the mourchidats and imams to
the US on an International Visitor Leadership Program this
coming year.



4. (SBU) The USG actively supports many of Morocco's reform
efforts, including through direct funding. Morocco is a
major recipient of funding through the Middle East
Partnership Initiative (MEPI), which funds projects in

Morocco that promote democracy and good governance, economic
growth, education, and women's empowerment. Morocco also
receives money from the US through economic support funds as
well as development assistance. In FY 2006, USAID programs
were funded at $21.6 million. This is a significant
reduction from the amounts approved by the Principals
Committee following the 2003 bombings. However, the
Millennium Challenge Corporation is currently negotiating a
compact with Morocco that may be valued at more than $500
million over five years.

Public Diplomacy


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





5. (SBU) Despite deep concerns among many Moroccans about
aspects of our foreign policy in the Middle East, we continue
to find Morocco a fertile ground for US public diplomacy
efforts. Moroccans openly welcome contact with the United
States and Americans, even if they disagree staunchly with
our policies regarding Iraq and Israel/Palestine. The sister
city relationship between Casablanca and Chicago is vibrant
and regarded as a model for sister city relationships. A
military exercise in southern Morocco this weekend has drawn
favorable press coverage. We look forward to continuing to
work with your staff on our public diplomacy strategy, as we
jointly seek more and better ways to advance understanding
and support for the US.

Press Freedom


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





6. (C) While Morocco's reforms remain largely on track,
press freedom continues to be a problematic area and lags
behind Western standards. A handful of newspapers have been
handed stiff fines recently stemming from charges of libel
(reftels). While this may represent an improvement from the
recent practice of sending journalists to jail (we are not
aware of any journalists currently in prison), such fines are
tantamount to forcing publications out of business. This is
an issue we follow closely and have raised with the GOM on
numerous occasions. On a more positive note, earlier this
month operating licenses were granted to eleven new private
radio stations and one new French-Moroccan television
station.

Middle East: the Palestinians, Iraq, Iran


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





7. (C) Morocco continues to be a moderating voice in the
Middle East. Mahmoud Abbas visited Morocco April 12-15. In
what the GOM considered a "working visit," the King offered
to provide the Palestinians a new embassy in Rabat. However,
the GOM refused an official visit by Hamas Secretary General
Khaled Mishal. King Mohammed met with Shimon Peres in Madrid
last year and one of the King's top advisors (and a leader of
the Moroccan Jewish community), Andre Azoulay, visited Israel
last November, where the GOI extended an invitation for King
Mohammed to visit. However, the Israeli liaison office in
Rabat, closed during the second intifada, remains shuttered.
Most recently the GOM, through the Mohammed VI Foundation for
Solidarity and at the King's urging, sent a large shipment of
humanitarian aid to help support the Palestinian people.



8. (C) The Government of Morocco continues to play a
discreet but supportive role in Iraq. Morocco has welcomed
some key events in Iraq, but is inconsistent in publicly
supporting major political developments; the GOM has said
nothing in public, for example, about Iraq's new government
and constitution. The Moroccan MFA has trained Iraqi
diplomats in Morocco. The GOM, however, has not publicly
condemned the terrorist attacks in Iraq in the same way it
has condemned similar attacks elsewhere. Two employees of
the Moroccan Embassy in Baghdad are currently being held
hostage, and there have been strong public demonstrations of
support for them, and against the kidnappers, from the King
and the Moroccan people, but their capture is dragging on
with no apparent resolution.



9. (C) The Iranian Vice President for Legal and

Parliamentary Affairs visited Morocco in early January and
was received by PM Jettou. While the Moroccans support the
right of Iran to develop nuclear energy for peaceful
purposes, the GOM has said that it made clear to VP Musavi
that Iran must comply with international law and
non-proliferation conventions. Morocco supports US efforts
to deal with the issue multilaterally and believes another
military confrontation must be avoided at all costs. The GOM
is also concerned about Iranian "meddling" in Iraq.

Western Sahara and Algeria


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





10. (C) Morocco's relations with Algeria are sour with no
immediate prospects for improvement. There are quiet
contacts between the two countries, but relations at the most
senior levels are not warm. The Western Sahara issue remains
a key obstacle in improving relations; without a resolution
to this long-standing dispute, limited Moroccan resources
that could be utilized more productively elsewhere will go to
maintaining a security environment in the territory, where
two-thirds of the Moroccan army is deployed. Algeria
continues to insist on a solution to the Western Sahara that
allows for self-determination for the Sahrawi people, while
Morocco insists the territory is an integral part of the
Kingdom and will consider autonomy for the territory but
staunchly rejects any option that allows for the possibility
of independence.



11. (C) We continue to urge Morocco and Algeria to improve
their dialogue and avoid negative public rhetoric. We
contribute to the annual budget of MINURSO, the peacekeeping
force in the territory, and support confidence-building
measures such as family visits between Moroccan and
Polisario-controlled areas. Senator Lugar visited Morocco
and Algeria in August 2005 to oversee the release of the
remaining 404 POWs held by the Polisario, a substantial
humanitarian contribution facilitated by the US, with
tremendous positive public diplomacy impact.

Economic Issues: FTA and Anti-Money Laundering


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

-



12. (SBU) We are pleased with the initial successes of the
FTA during the first months of implementation, particularly
the increased foreign direct investment in the textile and
garment sector. Several small irritations have arisen with
regard to agricultural trade, however. We hope that we can
work together in the cooperative spirit of the accord to open
up markets and liberalize sectors, thus making the FTA a true
victory for both countries.



13. (SBU) While we were encouraged by the Council of
Government's passage of draft anti-money laundering
legislation in April, as it is a keystone of our
counter-terrorism finance efforts we would like to see timely
Council of Ministers and Parliamentary approval of the law.
INL has set aside $800 thousand to help equip a Financial
Intelligence Unit and help train its personnel. Disbursement
of these and other US. funds (including FBI training and
assistance that may be reprogrammed for Algeria) is
contingent on passage of the AML law. Morocco's MENA-FATF
peer review is scheduled for November 2006.
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******************************************

Riley