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Cablegate: Special Media Reaction: Visit of Secretary

VZCZCXRO9836
PP RUEHTRO
DE RUEHRB #0852/01 2541555
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 101555Z SEP 08
FM AMEMBASSY RABAT
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 9094
INFO RUCNMGH/MAGHREB COLLECTIVE
RUEHLB/AMEMBASSY BEIRUT 0569
RUEHDM/AMEMBASSY DAMASCUS 0737
RUEHDE/AMCONSUL DUBAI 0147

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 RABAT 000852

SIPDIS
SENSITIVE

STATE FOR NEA/PPD, NEA/MAG, NEA/PI AND DRL/NESCA
LONDON FOR MOC
DUBAI FOR PELLETIER

E.0. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PREL OVIP PHUM KDEM KPAO EAID KMPI MO
SUBJECT: SPECIAL MEDIA REACTION: VISIT OF SECRETARY
OF STATE RICE TO MOROCCO, SEPTEMBER 6-7, 2008

RABAT 00000852 001.2 OF 002


1. Summary: Moroccan press coverage of Secretary
Rice's September 6-7 visit to Morocco was
principally factual and positive, focused on
statements she made that the press described as
supportive of the Moroccan perspective on Western
Sahara negotiations. The Moroccan press also
highlighted her stated support for Moroccan reform.
A few newspapers viewed the Secretary's visit as an
afterthought and doubted the USG would engage more
robustly on Western Sahara. End summary.

2. The Moroccan press, both print and broadcast,
provided substantial and sustained coverage of the
Secretary's visit to Morocco, as well as her
previous stops in Libya, Tunisia and Algeria. Local
television provided lengthy, prime-time news
coverage at the top of their broadcasts following
the obligatory reports on royal activities; most
print articles were placed on page one. Practically
every word of the Secretary's remarks on Morocco
made during her joint press conference with Moroccan
Foreign Minister Fassi Fihri was widely quoted in
the press. The coverage was principally factual,
focused on two primary themes:

-- Western Sahara: The press universally
highlighted Secretary Rice's statement that "there
are good ideas on the table, and we don't need to
start over." This was widely portrayed in the local
press as indicating support for Morocco's autonomy
proposal as the basis for future negotiations. The
Moroccan press took this as a positive signal that
despite the recent end of UNSYG Personal Envoy for
Western Sahara Peter Van Walsum's mandate, there
would soon be a next round of negotiations, and that
they would not have to start over from scratch,
incorporating perspectives favorable to Morocco.

-- Moroccan reform: Secretary Rice and Fassi Fihri
both highlighted USG support for Morocco's reform
agenda, as evidenced by the Millennium Challenge
Account Compact signed last year. The press widely
quoted the Secretary as saying, "Everyone has been
impressed by the reforms that have been launched
under His Majesty King Mohammed VI." The local
press also highlighted Fassi Fihri's comments
praising the success of the U.S.-Morocco Free Trade
Agreement.

3. The limited commentary in the Moroccan print
media focused on the sense that Secretary Rice's
visit -- coming as it did so soon before the end of
her mandate -- was made principally for protocol
purposes. Some dailies averred that this was the
reason the Secretary was not received by the King.
Independent daily "Al Massae" stated the fact that
the Secretary's visit came so late during her tenure
demonstrated the lack of USG strategic interest in
addressing the Western Sahara conflict, especially
given oil and gas interests in Algeria, and
concluded that the countries of the region had to
rely on themselves to solve the conflict. Pro-
palace daily "Le Matin" opined that, as a result of
the Secretary's visit, she better understood the
importance of resolving the Western Sahara conflict
for rQional stability. Moroccan National Press
Union head Younes M'Jahed argued in socialist party
daily "Liberation" that the core tenets of U.S.
foreign policy did not change much from
administration to administration, and thus though
the Secretary's visit appeared tactical, it was in
fact strategic.

4. Independent daily "Aujourd'hui le Maroc"
commented sarcastically on Secretary Rice's
statement in Algiers that Algerian President
Bouteflika was a "wise" man, arguing that his wisdom
has not been in evidence in the way he has ruled
Algeria. The newspaper wrote, "Closed borders, 33
years of a false fratricidal conflict, a Maghreb
ideal that has been knocked off, a latent civil war,
an eroded civil society, a despoiled economy, a
political life that has been eradicated, etc. We do
not see where the president's wisdom resides."

RABAT 00000852 002.2 OF 002

5. The local press also widely, although far less
prominently, covered a sit-in on Sunday, September 7,
in front of Parliament to protest the Secretary's
visit. A communique distributed by a group of
Moroccan non-governmental organizations (NGOs)
participating in the protest said, "Legal activists
staged [Sunday] a protest sit-in at the Parliament
to condemn the U.S. Secretary of State's visit to
Morocco and to make heard the voice of Moroccan
civil society, [which] reject[s] U.S. foreign policy
in the region, characterized by its absolute bias in
favor of Israel, its aggressive policy against Arab
and Muslim peoples, especially in Iraq, Afghanistan,
the Sudan and Somalia." (Comment: This same small
group of NGOs periodically demonstrates against USG
policies, and also promotes -- largely
unsuccessfully -- a boycott of USG activities in
Morocco. End comment.)

Riley

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
 
 
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