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Moroccan Government Needs More Studies On Currency Reform, Premier Says

Mon, 07/03/2017 - 12:04

By Samia Errazzouki
photo: Abderrahmane Mokhtari

Morocco’s surprise delay in announcing its proposed currency liberalisation came only because the government needed “further studies” of the plan, Prime Minister Saadeddine El Othmani said, dismissing speculation that it ran into significant problems.

Last week, Morocco’s central bank postponed for “a few days” its planned announcement of the first phase of liberalising the dirham, a key reform backed by the International Monetary Fund. The central back gave no reason for the delay.

In a weekend interview on Morocco’s two public television channels, Othmani said he met with Finance Minister Mohammed Boussaid and central bank Governor Abdellatif Jouahri to discuss the move to a flexible currency regime and “the decision will be made at the right time.”

The dirham’s value is now fixed by a peg that is weighted 60 percent to the euro and 40 percent to the dollar. The first stage of reform will let the currency trade in a narrow range, which will widen over the course of up to 15 years.

The apparent delay left traders worried about the progress of the liberalisation. Morocco has advanced more than its North African neighbours in fiscal reforms, but like Egypt, Tunisia and Algeria, it is wary of unrest from currency shifts or cuts in state subsidies on fuel and basic foods.

According to one source with knowledge of the process, the delay was caused by “last-minute fine tuning,” although neither the central bank nor the government has said exactly how long the announcement will be delayed.

“What is proposed is a move to 5 percent margin,” the prime minister said, confirming a previous Reuters report that trading fluctuation will widen to 2.5 percent each way. “It’s not a floating of the dirham, but it’s just a degree of flexibility in the price of the currency,” he said.

Trading fluctuations are now only about 0.6 percent.

Othmani also denied reports one reason for the delay was a depletion of foreign reserves by $4.4 billion in the last two months. All Moroccan institutions involved in the process would need to agree about moving to a flexible regime in “order to protect the purchasing power of the Moroccan citizen,” he said.

Othmani also said the government had decided to reform the currency. The central bank’s role was making preparations and “taking the necessary precautions, approving the procedures.”

“It has the tools to intervene in the appropriate time to maintain the trading margin. This is the general context,” Othmani said of the central bank.

(Editing by Patrick Markey, Larry King)

America’s Forgotten Ally Morocco Helping Win War On Terror

Mon, 07/03/2017 - 11:46

By Van Hipp

King Abdullah II of Jordan (L) arrives at the inauguration of an exhibition in the Museum Mohamed VI of Modern and Contemporary Art, where he is received by King Mohammed VI of Morocco (R) and painter Mehdi Qotbi (C), in the Moroccan capital Rabat on March 23, 2017. (Fadel Senna/AFP/Getty Images)

It was 1777. America, the fledgling young republic that had declared its independence from British rule the year before, was struggling to survive. There was one nation, however, that stood by America in its early days and was actually the first country in the world to recognize America as a sovereign nation. France, you might guess? No, while the French were a great help militarily during the American Revolutionary War, the first nation that actually recognized our sovereignty was Morocco. In 1777, Moroccan Sultan Mohammed III became the first head of state to recognize the United States and added America to the nations Morocco’s ports were open to.

Almost a decade later, in 1786, the United States of America and Morocco signed the US-Morocco Treaty of Peace and Friendship which, to this day, remains the longest standing treaty in our nation’s history. And in 1789, President George Washington actually sent a copy of the U.S. Constitution to Morocco.

The Sultan, who was a direct descendant of the Prophet Muhammad, came from the Alaouite Dynasty. Today, his descendant, Mohammed VI sits on the throne as King of Morocco. Morocco is America’s oldest ally, and over these past 240 years, has remained one of America’s best allies. Over the years they have been rock solid and steady in support of the United States. Their relationship with the USA has often been overshadowed by others and because the Moroccans don’t always tout the long-standing relationship on the world stage, they truly are America’s forgotten ally.

Consider the following:

Morocco has long sided with the United States during wartime throughout American history.  During the first Gulf War, Morocco was the only Maghreb (Northwest Africa) member of the U.S. led coalition.

Morocco has been a key ally in the United States’ War on Terror and according to Wall Street International earlier this year, Moroccan intelligence has dismantled 40 terrorist cells and arrested 548 people since 2015.

U.S. Africa Command and U.S. Special Forces Command have worked closely with Morocco over the years conducting various training exercises, including the recent Operation Flintlock 2017.
Moroccan and American troops have engaged in joint airborne training and Morocco has a partnership with the Utah National Guard.

Morocco has provided key counterterrorism intelligence to the U.S. and its allies on ISIS.   According to former U.S. Ambassador to Morocco Marc Ginsberg last year, Moroccan Special Forces actually deployed with American and French counterterrorism special forces in Europe to uncover ISIS cells.

A free-trade agreement (FTA) exists between the United States and Morocco and Moroccans have actually bought more goods and services from the United States than we buy from them.
Morocco also has a solid and reliable leader in its King, Mohammed VI, who has carried on the traditions of his late father, King Hassan II. He has granted more power to women and continues Morocco’s tradition of good relations with Christians and Jews.

In fact, International Fellowship of Christians and Jews (IFCJ) Vice President Yael Eckstein has stated that Morocco defines tolerance and “is one of the few places where Christians, Muslims and Jews coexist in peace and mutual respect.” In 2011, the King appointed respected international human rights activist Driss El Yazami to chair Morocco’s National Human Rights Council. El Yazami is a strong friend of the United States. He visited Charleston, South Carolina, two years ago following the Emanuel AME Church tragedy to praise the people of Charleston for showing others how to come together with strong spirit which “is a real message for hope for all of us.”

To be clear, America has other solid allies in the Muslim world like King Abdullah of Jordan, who is also descended from the Prophet Muhammad, and President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi of Egypt, who had the guts to stand up to the Muslim Brotherhood. The U.S. also has to deal with old allies who are now unreliable, like Turkey. Last year, Turkey’s autocratic ruler Recip Tayyip Erodgan shut down power at the Incrilik Air Base and temporarily prohibited all U.S. Air Force planes stationed there from taking off and landing. This at the very NATO base where reports estimate close to 50 B-61 nuclear bombs are housed in underground vaults.

Today, the United States is confronted with the most complex foreign policy situation in our nation’s history. Morocco, America oldest ally, and yes, our forgotten ally, can now be a bridge to both Africa, where radical Islam is on the rise, and to the Middle East and Muslim world. It can also help fill the void being left by once reliable allies like Turkey. Now is the time to strengthen and foster America’s relationship with our oldest ally — America’s forgotten ally — Morocco.

Van Hipp is chairman of American Defense International, Inc. (ADI), a Washington, D.C. consulting firm. He is former chairman of the South Carolina Republican Party, and served on the Presidential Electoral College in 1988. He is the author of “The New Terrorism: How to Fight It and Defeat It.” To read more of his reports, Go Here Now.

Morocco’s Economy Grows By 4.8 pct In Q2

Mon, 07/03/2017 - 04:33

Source: Xinhua
Editor: yan

Morocco’s economy grew by 4.8 percent in the second quarter of this year, up by one percentage point over last year, local media reported on Sunday.

The official High Commission for Planning said in a note that the growth was mainly due to the rise in agricultural output by 17.4 percent in the second quarter this year, up by 3.2 points from the first quarter, the site of the Moroccan daily l’Economiste reported.

Apart from the agriculture sector, which accounts for more than 15 percent of the country’s economy, the non-agricultural sector grew by 3.3 percent in the second quarter from a year ago, the commission added.

As for the third quarter of 2017, the official planning agency expects the economy to grow by 4.1 percent in compared to 1.3 percent a year earlier.

The Moroccan economy was hit hard by a drought in the fall of 2015, which compromised the 2016 agriculture production. Helped by heavy rainfall in late 2016, the economy has greatly improved.

Nigeria Brokers Peace Between Morocco, Saharawi Republic

Mon, 07/03/2017 - 02:38

NAN Nigeria
By Ekemini Ladejobi

Nigeria has successfully brokered peace between Morocco and Saharawi Democratic Republic (SDR) on the wordings of the report of the human Rights abuses between the two countries.

The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) on Sunday reports that mediation took place barely a day after Nigeria assumed the leadership of the AU Peace and Security Council (PSC) at the 31st Executive Council meeting of the 39th AU Summit in Addis Ababa.7

Me. Geoffrey Onyeama, Nigeria’s Minister of Foreign Affairs who led the peace team told newsmen that Nigeria’s leadership of the PSC in peace and conflict came at the right time.

“The invitation for Nigeria to mediate in the crisis with Morocco and SDR is the new confidence that the AU has in Nigeria and to call on her to play a bigger role in the organisation.

“We are going to do just that; we have this responsibility and we are going to assert it to the benefit of the continent.’’

The minister explained further that Morocco had threatened to block the work of the Executive Council meeting of the AU because the council could not arrive at an agreement on the report of an evaluation mission to the SDR.

`We could not arrive at any agreement because those who were supporting Morocco stuck to their positions and wanted to see the paragraph removed while those for SDR wanted it to stay.

“Nigeria agreed to mediate and we met with the representatives of the two countries, and we were able to find an acceptable solution and the council of ministers were very relieved.

“We were able to get them to agree to the text the council proposed to them.

“It was not easy to get both countries to agree but it is very important for the organisation because, we have to look at the bigger picture, Onyeama said.

Meanwhile, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, Acting President of Nigeria is expected to attend the 29th Ordinary Session of the Assembly of the AU.

Onyeama said Osinbajo will address the Union mostly on the institutional reforms and the issue of financing the AU.

“We want to reform African Union and there is a proposal already on the table especially on how to finance the union.

“Nigeria is one of the key contributors to the union and of course the acting president will be engaged in the whole issues that concern ECOWAS including issues of finance and institutional reform, ‘’ he said.

Saharawi Democratic Republic is a partially recognised state that controls a thin strip of area in the Western Sahara region and claims sovereignty over the entire territory of Western Sahara, a former Spanish colony.

SADR was proclaimed by the Polisario Front on February 27, 1976, in Bir Lehlou, Western Sahara, a former communist liberation force (modeled after that of Cuba) which has since reformed its ideological and political views.

It calls the territories under its control the Liberated Territories or the Free Zone.

Morocco controls and administers the rest of the disputed territory and calls these lands its Southern Provinces.

The SADR government considers the Moroccan-held territory to be occupied territory, while Morocco considers the much smaller SADR-held territory to be a buffer zone. (NAN)

Polisario, ‘A Cold War Relic’- Spanish Writer

Mon, 07/03/2017 - 01:17

The North Africa Post

The Polisario is a ‘totalitarian organization’, representing an ideological anachronism peculiar to the Cold War era, said Spanish writer Jose Mariia Lizundia in an opinion article on La Provincia.

The Polisario “is a myth created by some Sahraoui students in Moroccan universities in the 1970s in connivance with leftist Spanish military officials of the Franco era and other left-wing politicians and newspapers in Spain,” explained Lizundia in the article that describes the Algerian-based separatists as a “relic of the Cold War.”

Historically speaking, the area internationally known as “Western Sahara” has never been an independent state, he wrote, noting that the Sahara has always been a part of Morocco. Likewise, he laid bare historical fallacies by separatists and their desperate attempts at falsifying historical facts saying that terms such as “Sahraoui Nation” has never existed. The Sahara was rather inhabited by tribes pledging allegiance to Moroccan Sultans.

In his article, the Spanish writer shed light on facets of the firm grip held by the Polisario in the camp of Tindouf. He said the separatist movement adopts “Stalinian” methods to purge any opposition to their authoritarianism in their rear base in the Tindouf camps, where slavery, summary executions, arbitrary detentions and torture are inflicted on people held against their will.

He deplored that the Polisario lacks independence in decision-making, as it remains a puppet manipulated by the Algerian military junta.

Lizundia highlighted the suffering of the people held within the Polisario-run Tindouf camps who face lethal reprisal if they venture to speak up their minds against the Polisario administration.

Yet, in his analysis, the Spanish writer gave a detailed description of the oppressive nature of the Polisario militias but fell short of highlighting the role of Algeria in creating, arming and protecting the separatist front. After all, it is Algeria, under putschist President Boumedien, that instigated the Polisario to wage war on Morocco and spent its oil mantra on nurturing a separatist thesis that poisoned Moroccan-Algerian relations for decades.

Algeria has also relegated the administration of a part of its territory in Tindouf to the Polisario where they engage in all sorts of abhorrent human rights violations, terrorism and criminal activities.

In the 1970s and 1980s, Algeria offered a sanctuary to Polisario militias in their guerrilla war on Morocco using hit-and-run tactics. Having recently received military equipment from the Algerian regime, the Polisario is becoming more than ever a tool used by Algiers to destabilize Morocco and sap all efforts seeking to find a lasting, political and mutually acceptable solution based on the Moroccan autonomy initiative.

Posted by North Africa Post
North Africa Post’s news desk is composed of journalists and editors, who are constantly working to provide new and accurate stories to NAP readers.

Meet Morocco’s ‘Terrorist Hunter’

Sun, 07/02/2017 - 17:29

The National.ae
Colin Freeman
Abdeljalil Bounhar/AP Photo

Abdelhak El Khiyame claims he has disbanded 167 terrorist cells. But is he really Morocco’s answer to the FBI, or is it just hype?

Abdelhak El Khiyame, the director of the Central Bureau for Judicial Investigation speaking to the media after dismantling a militant cell based in the southern city of El Jadida, on Jan 29, 2017 in Sale, Morocco.

Had it succeeded, the plot could have wiped out Morocco’s valuable tourist industry overnight. Holed up in the breezy surfing town of Essaouira, a cell of would-be ISIL gunmen were plotting an armed rampage, bringing extremist carnage to a resort famous for its hippy image.

But on June 22, the four suspects were arrested before they could act, sparing the resort once frequented by rock star Jimi Hendrix from mass bloodshed.

Officials claim they were aiming to repeat ISIL’s 2015 atrocity on a resort near Sousse in Tunisia, in which the group massacred 38 people and killed off the country’s tourism trade at the same time.

Just how close the Essaouira cell was to carrying out their attack remains unclear. But either way, the fact that Morocco remains safe enough to attract some ten million tourists a year is testament to the record of the country’s chief “Terrorist Hunter” — Abdelhak El Khiyame, the head of the Central Bureau of Judicial Investigation.

The dapper policeman, who leads Morocco’s answer to the FBI, claims the country’s security services have thwarted more than 340 terror plots since 2002 and dismantled 167 terrorist cells.

Much as human rights groups sometimes query his agency’s methods, few can dispute the end results.

Since the 9/11 attack in 2001, Morocco has had only two major terror incidents: a suicide bombing in Casablanca in 2003 that killed 45, and a 2011 bombing in Marrakech that killed 17.

Moroccan media gives much of the credit to Mr El Khiyame, 59, a career detective who has brought modernising zeal to the country’s security apparatus.

What is equally remarkable is that people actually know who he is. Unlike counter-terrorism chiefs in other Arab countries who seldom appear in public, Mr El Khiyame is a familiar face on TV, giving interviews to news channels and newspapers.

Favouring smart suits with waistcoats, ties and matching pocket handkerchiefs, he is the polar opposite of the stereotypical Arab intelligence spymaster, looking more like Hercule Poirot or a university don.

He also styles himself as a man on a personal mission, declaring: “I fight terrorism every day because these people deface the covenant of Islam I believe in.”

In breaking the mould of his shadowy profession, Mr El Khiyame aims to draw a line under a long period in which Morocco’s security services were feared and mistrusted.

During the “years of lead” era — used to describe the reign of the previous monarch, King Hassan II — dissidents and democracy activists were ruthlessly suppressed and often “disappeared”.

While the human rights climate has improved under Hassan’s son, King Mohammed VI, the burgeoning war on terror has made the role of the security services more crucial than ever.

For as much as Morocco may have been spared bloodshed on its own soil, it has produced its fair share of violent extremists. By Mr El Khiyame’s own estimate, more than 1,600 Moroccans have gone to fight for extremist groups abroad, mostly in Iraq and Syria, with around 400 killed in combat.

Members of Morocco’s diaspora have also played their part in recent terror atrocities in Europe. Two of the men involved in June’s attacks at London Bridge in Britain had Moroccan ancestry, as did several of those involved in the Paris attacks in November 2015.

Moroccans were among those convicted over the 2004 Madrid train bombings, which killed 192 people, and in 2006, US officials said that at least nine men involved in suicide bomb attacks in Iraq had come from the same Moroccan town of Tetouan.

Mr El Khiyame blames much of the problem on poor schooling, which allows young Moroccans to be brainwashed into joining ISIL. Following the arrest of 10 female ISIL suspects last year, he pointedly criticised Morocco’s education system, asking: “Where is the role of parents, school and civil society in such cases?”

But while he supports “hearts and minds” strategies designed to turn young Moroccans away from extremism, he also backs Morocco’s tough anti-terror measures — such as a law passed in 2015 making it illegal for anyone to join ISIL abroad.

His agency co-operates closely with the West, and was credited by France in 2015 for information that helped them track down the mastermind of the Paris attack, Abdelhamid Abaaoud, who was killed in a raid on a Paris flat five days after the attack.

Mr El Khiyame has also accused his European counterparts of not doing enough. He claims to have warned Belgian officials as far back as 2008 that the Molenbeek district of Brussels — where Abaaoud and two other attackers grew up — “could constitute a real breeding ground for terrorists”.

“Belgium is becoming the Daesh of Europe,” he warned last year. “Terrorism has no religion and no nationality”.

Mr El Khiyame has his own critics too. Despite attempts by the Moroccan authorities to improve their observance of judicial process, Ahmed Benchemsi, of Human Rights Watch, said there were still cases where suspects seemed to have been deceived or coerced into signing confessions.

“This follows a pattern we have documented in the past where people were compelled to sign admission statements either by torture or psychological pressure,” he said.

A media source who had dealt with Mr El Khiyame’s agency added that despite his openness, it was seldom possible to verify any of the claims made about breaking up terrorist cells.

In one case, where the agency said it had arrested 45 suspects in a single village, journalists’ own inquiries had suggested only one was an actual suspect and the rest were simply neighbours caught up in a sweep.

Whether last week’s arrests fall into that category, nobody knows. But genuine or not, the more the agency proclaims its victories, the more the Terrorist Hunter also has to live up to. Were ISIL to stage a major attack in Essaouira now, even his considerable PR skills might be put to the test.

Europol Seizes Weapons Bound for Occupied Ceuta, Melilla

Sat, 07/01/2017 - 15:56

The North Africa Post

The European Police Office (Europol) foiled in Rotterdam port an attempt at trafficking a considerable cargo of arms to terrorists in the Spanish-occupied cities of Ceuta and Melilla in northern Morocco, Moroccan newspaper al Ahdat reported.

The seized weapons comprised pistols and machine guns and were intended to be smuggled through Sardinia to North Africa, the paper said.

The weapons were ordered by terrorists in northern Morocco with a view to perpetrating attacks undermining public order, said the paper, recalling that Morocco’s anti-terrorist agency, the Central Bureau of Judicial Investigations (BCIJ), had dismantled a terrorist cell planning to use fire arms to assassinate political figures.

Morocco has been cooperating closely with EU member states on security issues leading to joint operations especially with Spain and France against terrorist cells.

Last September, Former Interior Minister said that he discussed with European Commissioner for Migration and Home Affairs, Dimitris Avramopoulos, the possibility of sealing a comprehensive agreement on security cooperation between relevant Moroccan authorities and the Europol.

In the annual study dubbed: “Terrorism in North Africa and the Sahel in 2016”, issued by the Inter-University Centre on Terrorism Studies (IUCTS) and the Potomac Institute for Policy Studies, Morocco has been described as the country “least affected” by terrorism in North Africa and the Sahel with zero attacks reported in 2016.

Posted by North Africa Post

North Africa Post’s news desk is composed of journalists and editors, who are constantly working to provide new and accurate stories to NAP readers.