- The Washington Times - Sunday, July 13, 2003

Target Morocco

Moroccan Ambassador Aziz Mekouar believes Morocco was targeted by suicide bombers in May because of its cooperation with the West in the war on terrorism.

Mr. Mekouar told B’nai B’rith International in Washington last week that Moroccans “woke up” to the reality that terrorism could strike the mainly Islamic North African kingdom.

“We used to think it could happen anywhere else but here,” he said.

Mr. Mekouar said Morocco had provided intelligence to help the United States track down terrorists.

“The bombings occurred because of where we stand in the war on terrorism, where we stand in the peace process, where we stand in civil society,” he said.

Attackers killed 31 persons and injured more than 100 in four almost simultaneous bomb attacks in Casablanca on May 16. Most of the victims were Moroccans.

Mr. Mekouar described Morocco as “a country of tolerance and a country of openness.”

Morocco endorsed President Bush’s “road map” for Middle East peace and has a special interest in more than 400,000 Jews of Moroccan descent who are citizens of Israel, the ambassador said.

Mr. Mekouar noted Morocco’s long association with Jews, who have lived in Morocco for 2,000 years.

He said Morocco is at a “geographic crossroads” as a North African Mediterranean nation that is separated from Europe only by the narrow Strait of Gibraltar.

“We are a monarchy but also a democracy,” he said, explaining that Morocco has a multiparty system that holds elections that are free and fair.

He said 30 of the legislature’s 315 seats are reserved for women. The State Department notes that King Mohammed VI, while generally respecting the human rights of his subjects, also holds ultimate power over parliament.

“Little by little, we are approaching European and American standards,” the ambassador said.

Mr. Mekouar noted Morocco’s long bilateral relations with the United States.

“We were the first country to recognize the United States in 1777,” he said, adding that Morocco signed its first treaty with the young America in 1783. “We were also a strong Cold War ally.”

Diplomatic traffic

Foreign visitors in Washington this week include:


• Afghan Foreign Minister Abdullah Abdullah, who addresses a forum organized by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

• Bangladeshi Finance Minister Saifur Rahman, who meets World Bank President James Wolfensohn and Managing Director Shengman Zhang and International Monetary Fund Managing Director Horst Kohler this week.

• Roozbeh Farahanipour, executive director of the Iranian political party Marzeporgohar and a leader of the 1999 student uprising. He holds a 4 p.m. news conference at the National Press Club.


• Czech Prime Minister Vladimir Spidla, who meets President Bush and holds a 4 p.m. news conference at the National Press Club. He is accompanied by Foreign Minister Cyril Svoboda and Defense Minister Miroslav Kostelka.

• Interpol Secretary General Ronald Noble, who addresses the American Bar Association Standing Committee on Law and National Security on efforts to prevent and combat biological attacks.


• Three Islamic scholars from Uzbekistan: Abdujabar Abduvakhitov of Westminster International University; Zokhidilo Munavarov, chairman of the International Fund of Imam al-Bukari and a former presidential adviser; and Marina Pikulina of the Swisspeace Institute for Conflict Resolution. They address a Nixon Center forum on Islamic extremism in the Central Asian republic.

• Soon Ak Lee and Kan Cheol-hwan, two survivors of North Korean prisons. They participate in a forum on North Korean human rights violations at the National Endowment for Democracy.


• British Prime Minister Tony Blair, who meets President Bush and addresses a joint session of Congress.

• Israeli Finance Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

• Salambek Maigov, Chechnya’s presidential envoy to Russia, who discusses efforts to end the war in Chechnya in a forum sponsored by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty.

Call Embassy Row at 202/636-3297, fax 202/832-7278 or e-mail jmorrison@washingtontimes.com.

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