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08RABAT60 2008-01-22 17:51:00 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Rabat
Cable title:  

MOROCCAN REACTIONS TO THE POTUS MIDDLE EAST TRIP

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1. (C) Summary: Coverage in the Moroccan media of President
Bush's trip to the Middle East was almost entirely, even
studiously, factual and based largely on wire service
articles. One opinion column in a mass market Arabic daily
was stingingly critical. A January 14 visit to Morocco by
King Abdullah of Jordan yielded a public condemnation of
Israeli "violations against the Palestinian people" but no
mention by the two monarchs of the President's trip. A key
parliamentary leader told us he welcomed the President's
initiative but asserted that Israeli military operations
against militants in Gaza would undermine U.S. efforts to
restart the peace process. MFA sources regarded the trip as
important step, but were either not optimistic or reticent
about the outcome. End summary.



2. (SBU) Coverage in the Moroccan media of President Bush's
trip to the Middle East was almost entirely, even studiously,
factual and based largely on wire service articles. Of the
very few opinion pieces generated by the trip, a January 16
column which appeared in the mass market Arabic daily
Al-Massae was typically cynical. The piece claimed that the
President's main theme was to "threaten Iran and incite its
Arab neighbors against it," while "advocating Israel's
security and finding solutions to its colonial schemes."



3. (SBU) Although King Abdullah of Jordan's January 14
arrival in Morocco for a state visit coincided with the end
of President Bush's visit to the Middle East, neither King
made reference to it in public remarks. Maghreb Arab Press,
the state news agency reported on January 15 that the two
monarchs "condemned the continuous violations perpetrated by
Israel against the Palestinian people and called on the
international community to end such practices, which do not
serve stability, security, and peace in the region." A text
of their communique, released in Jordan, spoke vaguely of the
Annapolis process.



4. (C) Hamid Narjis, a Vice President of the Chamber of
Deputies and caucus leader for the key "Tradition and
Modernity" parliamentary bloc, told us on the margins of a
January 18 meeting that President Bush's visit to the region
had been a welcome effort to try to restart the dormant
Israeli-Palestinian peace process. He lamented, however,
that the coincidence of the President's visit with Israeli
military operations against militants in Gaza had generated
significant negative coverage across the Arab world and would
undermine U.S. efforts to advance peace.



5. (SBU) Subsequent to the visit, there have been small, but
growing public protests about the situation in Gaza. Some of
these have been directed at the UN offices, none at USG
facilities. We understand a national day of protest has been
called for January 27.


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Riley