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IdentifierCreatedClassificationOrigin
07RABAT337 2007-02-21 09:00:00 UNCLASSIFIED Embassy Rabat
Cable title:  

AMBASSADOR REACHES OUT TO REMOTE CORNERS OF MOROCCO

Tags:   PGOV EAID KPAO MO 
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VZCZCXRO2851
RR RUEHBC RUEHDE RUEHKUK RUEHROV
DE RUEHRB #0337/01 0520900
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 210900Z FEB 07
FM AMEMBASSY RABAT
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 5891
INFO RUEHEE/ARAB LEAGUE COLLECTIVE
RHEFDIA/DIA WASHINGTON DC
					  UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 RABAT 000337 

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

FOR NEA, NEA/MAG, NEA/PPD, AND R

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV EAID KPAO MO
SUBJECT: AMBASSADOR REACHES OUT TO REMOTE CORNERS OF MOROCCO



1. Summary: The Ambassador conducted a series of outreach
visits across Morocco January 31 - February 7. Taking
advantage of the one-week availability of a USG C-12
aircraft, the Ambassador travelled "off the beaten path" to
Errachidia, Figuig, and Oujda in the east, Al-Hoceima in the
north, and Ouarzazate in the southeast. At each site, the
Ambassador met with local officials and local NGO leaders,
and greeted private citizens. The visits highlighted USG
partnerships with local governments and civil society to
promote rural economic and social development. Though
anti-USG groups demonstrated twice and called for "boycotts"
of the Ambassador's events, we drew considerable favorable
coverage in local and national print and broadcast media --
out of 29 total media placements, two were negative and 27
were positive or neutral. End summary.



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


An Outreach Blitz...


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





2. In early January, the Ambassador planned a series of
outreach visits to parts of Morocco "off the beaten path."
He took advantage of the availability of a C-12 aircraft
based at the USDAO in Ghana to reach out to areas far from
the Rabat-Casablanca corridor, some without regular
commercial air access. The visits allowed the Ambassador an
opportunity for direct consultation with provincial governors
and other local government leaders as well as interaction in
the field with Moroccan civil society organization (CSO)
partners and U.S. Peace Corps volunteers. The Ambassador
made numerous visits to the sites of USG-funded projects
targeting rural illiteracy, youth activity centers,
employment generation, and agricultural development. In each
of his stops, the Ambassador was warmly received by local
political elites, by CSO partners, and by direct
beneficiaries of U.S.-funded programs.



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


Anti-USG Elements React...


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





3. A small coalition of anti-USG groups called for "boycotts"
of the Ambassador on his visits to Oujda and Figuig,
attracting national press attention. A group of 50-70
persons staged a brief sit-in in Bouafara, coinciding with
the Ambassador's stop there, to protest U.S. policy in the
Middle East. The sit-in did not disrupt the schedule. There
was also a small sit-in at City Hall in Oujda on the day of
the Ambassador's visit to the town, although the Ambassador
was never scheduled to stop at the site.



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


...But a Net Gain for U.S. Public Diplomacy


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





4. In spite of the protest and boycott calls, overall media
coverage of the visit was favorable. The Embassy's Public
Affairs Section facilitated local media coverage of the
Ambassador's stops, with space allowed for a Moroccan camera
crew and print journalists on each leg of the aircraft's
travels. This facilitation yielded positive coverage of
links between the USG and rural Moroccans, including details
of the broad range and extent of U.S.-funded economic and
social development projects, even in some of the most
far-flung regions of the country. In total, there were 29
media placements, of which 27 were positive or neutral, and
two negative.



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


Visit Highlights


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





5. In his January 31 visit to Errachidia, the large interior
province on the eastern flank of the Atlas, the Ambassador
called on provincial Secretary-General Lahcen Amzal (the
Governor was out of town), as well as Errachadia Mayor Moulay
Zahid Sidi Ammi. The local officials affirmed to the
Ambassador that economic development and job creation were
their top and overriding priorities for the province, and
noted the initiation of local projects funded by the King's
National Human Development Initiative (INDH). The Ambassador
also visited an information-technology training center
benefiting local youth, funded by USAID in cooperation with
UNIFEM and Cisco Systems, Inc, and participated with Peace
Corps volunteers in an English lesson at a local youth
center.



6. During his February 1 visit to Figuig province, in the
eastern desert adjacent to the Algerian border, the

RABAT 00000337 002 OF 002


Ambassador, and his European Union counterpart, called on
Governor Abderrahman Addi, based in the town of Bouarfa, and
visited a MEPI-funded illiteracy project, also in Bouarfa.
At the latter stop, several women told the Ambassador how
much they had benefitted from the USG-funded literacy
training, which had "opened up a new world of awareness" for
them, including awareness of their expanded legal rights
under the family code, revised by the GOM in 2004. The group
then traveled to the city of Figuig, where they lunched with
the Mayor, visited an English class led by Peace Corps
volunteers at a youth center, and stopped at a public
hospital recently refurbished with a grant from the E.U.



7. On February 2, the Ambassador flew to Ben Guerir Airbase,
midway between Casablanca and Marrakech, and participated in
a ceremony to mark the transfer of more than USD 500,000
worth of equipment donated by NASA, a legacy of the Airbase's
former designation as an alternate Space Shuttle landing
site. Colonel-Major Abdelali Haouri, Vice Chief of Staff of
the Royal Moroccan Air Force, thanked the Ambassador for the
USG's donation, which symbolized the two countries' close
bilateral military and strategic ties.



8. The Ambassador continued on February 2 to Ouarzazate, a
scenic province which attracts a significant number of
foreign tourists and international film productions.
Welcoming the Ambassador to his office, Governor Mohammed
Ichenarn cited job creation as his top priority, and he noted
that the INDH was active in several parts of the province.
(Note: Separately, local NGO and political leaders complained
to poloff of the region's marginalization, and lamented that
the INDH projects would only scratch the surface of the
province's economic problems. End Note.) The Governor told
the Ambassador that the film production business in the
province was steady, but hoped more and larger productions
could be attracted to the area. The Ambassador also received
a briefing from an agricultural development NGO -
highlighting the impact of a fungus which has devastated the
date crop in the region, and visited the site of a potential
Millennium Challenge Corporation project aimed at
revitalizing the local date industry. The Ambassador again
participated in an English lesson at a youth center staffed
by Peace Corps Volunteers, and distributed soccer uniforms to
local youth donated by U.S. private sector contacts.



9. In the Mediterranean coastal town of Al-Hoceima on
February 5, the Ambassador met with Governor Abdellah
Al-Maslout, reviewed the progress of recovery efforts
launched after a serious 2004 earthquake, and met with
members of the Gateway Medical Alliance, a U.S. NGO providing
assistance in the area. The Ambassador also visited a
Moroccan naval base for a briefing on the Royal Navy's
anti-smuggling operations. The naval briefer told the
Ambassador that 6500 arrests were made in 2006, up from 640
in 2003. The Ambassador also met with the local investment
authority to discuss potential opportunities for U.S. and
other foreign investors in the region, with particular
opportunities in the tourism sector.



10. On the last stage of his visit, in Oujda, a city of
roughly 700,000 people in the far northeast of Morocco, the
Ambassador inaugurated an exhibit marking the 50th
anniversary of the launch of USAID activities in the country,
and witnessed the signature of an agreement between Governor
Mohammed Brahimi and USAID to upgrade the food processing
industry in the region. In a separate meeting, Governor
Brahimi, considered a contender for a future cabinet post,
told the Ambassador that Spanish tourism sector investments
on the province's Mediterranean coast would create about
8,000 jobs in the coming years. Also in Oujda, the
Ambassasador visited a U.S.-supported battered women's
shelter, a micro-credit project, and greeted Moroccan youth
at the USG-financed "American Corner" at Oujda's principal
university.

******************************************
Visit Embassy Rabat's Classified Website;
http://www.state.sgov.gov/p/nea/rabat
******************************************

Riley