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Morocco News meets the World

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    Mr. Hassan Radoine

    New York (UN) - Morocco adopted urban planning for the development of prosperous cities economically and sustainable at the social and environmental levels, said, on Thursday in New York, director of the National School for Architecture (ENA) Hassan Radoine.

    This approach is based on an ambitious program relying on visions and strategies as well as good governance via public and government policies including all political, legal, environmental and socio-economic aspects, said Radoine at an interactive panel at the UN headquarters on the theme "efficient governance, political decision and planning for a sustainable urbanization."

    This panel, attended by mayors, experts and academics, is part of a three-day event initiated by the UN economic and social council meant to discuss challenges and opportunities for a sustainable future for cities.

    "Morocco is a country with an urban tradition which includes different cities characterized by regional, cultural and geographical diversity," he said.

    He added that "adopted strategies are aimed at keeping urban balance and protecting and developing natural and cultural resources."


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    Baseline Profitability Index

    Casablanca- Foreign investors with international aspirations are constantly on the lookout for the best international investment destinations. Today, Morocco is among the top 3 Arab countries for profitable investment, according to the 2014 Baseline Profitability Index (BPI).

    The Baseline Profitability Index (BPI), published by Daniel Altman and Foreign Policy magazine, ranks markets for foreign investment based on asset growth, preservation of value, and repatriation of capital.

    Recently published by the American Foreign Policy magazine, the 2014 BPI ranked Morocco third best Arab destination for profitable investment, ahead of Saudi Arabia (58th) and Egypt (73rd). The Cherifian Kingdom is also the only Maghreb country that has made it to BPI’s ranking.

    At the international level, Morocco ranked 42th out of 112 countries featured in the study. The kingdom ranked right after the United Kingdom, and ahead of Canada (44th), the Netherlands (51st), Sweden (52nd) and Germany (68th).

    Yet, Morocco scored 1.02 in 2014 compared to 1.03 in 2013, and thus lost 5 ranks, according to the 2014 BPI.

    Topping this year’s list of best destinations for profitable business is Botswana, which scored 1.3, followed by Hong Kong (1.22) and Taiwan (1.20).

    According to Daniel Altman, the BPI considers 8 factors that allow the prediction of “the total pretax return investors might expect in countries around the world”: economic growth, financial stability, physical security, corruption, expropriation by government, exploitation by local partners, capital controls and exchange rates.

    Taking into consideration the important mutations global investment underwent over the past 12 months, Altman added three new factors to the BPI: “how much an asset's value grows, the preservation of that value while the asset is owned, and the ease of bringing home the proceeds from selling the asset.”

     © Morocco World News. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, rewritten or redistributed


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    King Mohammed VI, Tunisian President Chair Signing Ceremony of 23 Bilateral Agreements

    Tunis - King Mohammed VI and Tunisian president, Moncef Marzouki, chaired, Friday at the Palace of Carthage in Tunis, the signing ceremony of several bilateral agreements.

    These agreements are of highly strategic importance, as they cover various economic, social and security fields, and open up broad prospects of cooperation for the integration of the Maghreb. They are also marked by a significant openness on new areas of cooperation, including renewable energy, the environment, financial markets, and the promotion of human rights, as well as by the important involvement of the private sector represented by the General Confederation of Moroccan Businesses (CGEM) and the Tunisian Union of Industry, Trade and Handicrafts (UTICA).

    The signing of these agreements reflects the will to support the transition that Tunisia is undergoing, and to enrich in a qualitative way the legal framework of bilateral cooperation.

    The first agreement covers a Memorandum of Understanding between the Moroccan Academy of Diplomatic Studies and the Tunisian Diplomatic Institute for Training and Education, signed by foreign minister, Salaheddine Mezouar and his Tunisian counterpart El Mounji El Hamidi.

    The second agreement concerns an executive program of cultural cooperation for the 2015-2017 period, signed by Mezouar and El Hamidi.

    The third agreement relates to cooperation in the field of security, signed by interior Minister, Mohamed Hassad and his Tunisian counterpart, Lotfi Benjeddou.

    The fourth agreement, signed by minister of economy and finance, Mohamed Boussaid and his Tunisian counterpart, Hakim Benhammouda, relates to regional integration and co-development.

    The fifth agreement, signed by minister of industry, trade, investment and digital economy, Moulay Hafid El Alamy, and Tunisian minister of industry, energy and mining, Kamal Ben Naceur, on cooperation in the industrial and technology fields.

    The sixth agreement is a memorandum of cooperation in the field of the protection of industrial property between the Moroccan Office of Intellectual and Industrial Property and the Tunisian Institute for Standardization and Industrial Property, signed by Moulay Hafid El Alamy and Kamal Ben Naceur.

    The seventh agreement, which focuses on an executive program of cooperation in the field of scientific research and technology, was signed by minister of higher education, scientific research and training, Lahcen Daoudi, and Tunisian minister of higher education, scientific research, and information and communication technology, Taoufik Jelassi.

    The eighth agreement, a draft partnership agreement and cooperation between the ministries of education of both countries and the National Council for Human Rights and the Arab Institute for Human Rights, was signed by minister of national education and vocational training, Rachid Belmokhtar and his Tunisian counterpart, Fethi El Jerray.

    The ninth agreement, which covers a cooperation protocol in the field of health, was signed by minister of health, Hussein El Ouardi and his Tunisian counterpart, Mohammed Essaleh Benammar.

    The tenth framework agreement on cooperation in the field of logistics, was signed by minister of infrastructure, transport and logistics, Aziz Rebbah and Tunisian Minister of transport, Shihab Ben Ahmed.

    The 11th agreement is a memorandum of understanding on cooperation between the Higher Institute of Maritime Studies of Casablanca and Tunisia's Mediterranean Institute for Training in Maritime Professions, signed by Aziz Rebbah and Shihab Ahmed Ben.

    The 12th agreement covers cooperation in the field of religious affairs and endowments and was signed by minister of endowments and Islamic affairs, Ahmed Toufiq and his Tunisian counterpart Mounir Tlili.

    The 13th agreement is an executive program of cooperation in the field of religion and waqf for the 2014-2017 period, and was signed by Ahmed Toufiq and Mounir Tlili.

    The 14th agreement covers an executive program of cooperation in the field of tourism (2014-2017), signed by minister of tourism, Lahcen Haddad and his Tunisian counterpart, Amal Karboul.

    The 15th agreement is a cooperation protocol between the Tangier Higher Institute of Tourism and the Tunisian Higher Institute of Tourism Studies of Sidi Drif, signed by Lahcen Haddad and Amal Karboul.

    The 16th agreement covers cooperation in the fields of public service, the modernization of public administration and governance. It was signed by minister-delegate for public service and the modernization of the administration, Mohamed Moubdii and Tunisian secretary of State for governance and public service, Anwar Benkhalifa.

    The 17th agreement, which covers cooperation in the field of the environment, was signed by minister-delegate for the environment, Hakima Al Haiti and Tunisian secretary of state for sustainable development, Mounir El Mejdoub.

    The 18th agreement, which concerns cooperation between CGEM and UTICA, was signed by Meriem Bensaleh Chaqroun, president of CGEM, and Widad Bouchmaoui, president of UTICA.

    The 19th agreement on cooperation between the National Railroad Office (ONCF) and the Tunisian National Railway Company was signed by ONCF director general, Mohamed Rabii Lakhlii, and CEO of the Tunisian company, Mokhtar Sadek.

    The 20th agreement relating to cooperation between the National Office of Hydrocarbons and Mines (ONHYM) and the Tunisian Oil Activities Company (ETAP), was signed by Amina Benkhadra, ONHYM director-general and Mohamed al Akroute, CEO of ETAP.

    The 21st agreement covers a draft protocol of cooperation between the Casablanca Stock Exchange and the Tunis Stock Exchange. It was signed by Karim Haji, managing director of the Casablanca Stock Exchange, and Mohamed Bichou, director-general of the Tunis Stock Exchange.

    The 22nd agreement provides for promoting partnership in the development of solar energy. It was signed by Mustapha Bakkoury, CEO of the Moroccan Agency for Solar Energy (MASEN) and Hamdi Harrouch, director general of the National Agency for Energy Management.

    The 23rd agreement covers the tripartite cooperation between the Banque Marocaine du Commerce Extérieur (BMCE), Banque Nationale Agricole tunisienne (BNA) and Banque de Tunisie. It was signed by CEO of BMCE, Othman Benjelloun, President and CEO of Banque de Tunisie, Habib Ben Saad, and CEO of BNA, Jaafar Khattech.


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    Morocco World News celebrates Its Third Anniversary

    Fez- The foremost English language news site in Morocco has come a long way from its humble beginnings in an apartment in Queens, New York.

    The founders, Moroccan brothers Samir and Adnane Bennis, launched the site in 2011 as a gateway for Moroccan-based English language news reporting. At that time, there were no local English language news outlets producing news on the country. Major Western news sources covered stories on Morocco, but there was no cohesive English news site with Moroccan journalists and editors producing stories on the Kingdom.

    “Our goal was to launch a news outlet with the aim of providing the reader with a balanced approach to Morocco and also allow Moroccans to freely express their views about their country in an English language website,” Samir Bennis said.

    MWN was developed to give readers in-depth and on-site reporting about Morocco from people with an extensive knowledge of the region and issues.

    Samir Bennis, a political adviser at an Arab Mission to the United Nations in New York, teamed up with his brother Adnane, then a freelance translator, to launch Morocco World News (MWN) in May 2011.

    “MWN strives to report the news that goes unreported in other media and provide the reader with a fresh and independent perspective on Morocco. We also offer analyses and essays about highly important issues, chief of which is the conflict of the Sahara,” Adnane Bennis, the co-founder and managing editor, stated.

    The news site has now expanded to include an editorial board of journalists and over ten contributors and correspondents, mainly in Morocco and the United States.

    The MWN team includes Moroccan-based journalists that produce stories directly from cities around Morocco, giving the website a countrywide capacity for news coverage. Young American graduates also work on the MWN team to improve the quality of reporting and help young aspiring Moroccan journalists improve their English writing skills.

    Ahmed Azizi, an MWN board member, acknowledged the tireless efforts of the MWN staff, writers and contributors for bringing the website to where it is today.

    “They have now been working hard for three years to turn what started as a very ambitious idea into an exemplary media outlet that countless people worldwide refer to daily for up-to-date information and valuable insights into a wide range of important and interesting issues,” Azizi said.

    Elisabeth Myers, an editor and MWN board member, has seen the news website grow rapidly from its beginning three years ago into “a respected and widely read online publication that provides a platform not only for responsible journalism, but also for timely debate on the pressing issues of our time affecting Morocco, Moroccans, and Moroccan-Americans.”

    MWN gives a worldwide community of readers the opportunity to read news in English about Morocco, where the news industry is heavily dominated by Arabic and French media outlets.

    “MWN presents a broad, objective perspective on the Middle East. By filling a gap in English-language coverage of such news, MWN significantly contributes to a better understanding of Arab and Middle East politics, culture, and life,” Myers said.

    The website has been self-funded since inception, leaving the founders paying out-of-pocket to keep the outlet afloat. Three years later, the website is still struggling to find funding which would accommodate paying journalists there by elevating the overall quality of the reporting.

    Despite a lack of monetary resources, the MWN founders said they hope to find a financial solution and hire more journalists and make the site more professional and sustainable.

    “The short period that MWN has been in existence is a prime example of how a few people with little resources but with a lot of sincerity, enthusiasm and determination can make a difference and contribute to enrich the media landscape in Morocco and around the world," Azizi said.


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    TUNISIA-MOROCCO-DIPLOMACY

     New York- Moroccans were surprised on Saturday by an unlikely rumor that King Mohammed VI has decided to cut short his visit to Tunisia and return to Morocco. The reason for this supposed decision was said to be a disagreement between the heads of State over the Western Sahara conflict.

    Upon hearing the rumor, Moroccans, including myself, wondered whether it really was just a rumor or actually another effort of the Algerian secret services to “spoil the moment.”

    But what made the rumor unlikely is that on the first day of his much anticipated visit to Tunisia, the huge delegation accompanying King Mohammed VI signed 23 bilateral agreements with its Tunisian counterparts covering a multitude of topics. In diplomatic practice, this might be a record, for it is rare to see two countries sign such so many agreements and protocols all at once.

    For any commentator acquainted with the political relations between the countries of North Africa, a diplomatic success such as this scored by Morocco surely would not go unnoticed in Algeria, leading perhaps to the desire of the Algerian government to do all it could to spoil the moment and make sure that the Royal visit does not proceed smoothly without mishap.

    Since I heard the news, I was personally convinced that the alleged spat was just another rumor instigated by the Algerian secret services, and that it was very unlikely to have such a turn of events in less than 24 hours after the signing of 23 bilateral agreements.

    What one has to keep in mind is that before a head of state or government or a Minister of foreign affairs visits another country, the agenda of the meeting is prepared ahead of time. Every single element of the talking points between the two parties is reviewed before any visit takes place. For visits of such importance, such the one paid by King Mohammed VI to Tunisia, it certainly takes several weeks, and sometimes months of correspondences between the relevant authorities of the the two countries to ensure that the visit takes place in the best conditions and yields the expected results for both countries.

    Therefore, one can state with certitude that if the question of the Sahara comes up in the discussion between the two heads of state, it is not by coincidence. Rather, it is because the two parties had agreed to address it ahead of time. When a topic is addressed in a meeting between two heads of state or government, their ministries of foreign affairs have agreed in advance what aspects of the topic to talk about.

    Having myself been involved for several years in the preparation for exchanges of visits between different governments, I know for a fact that if an agreement is not reached over the talking points of any proposed visit, such a visit has no chance of taking place. A visit of a head of state or government to another country takes place only once any potential differences between the two countries, if any, are ironed out.

    King Mohammed VI would not have gone to Tunisia if he had not been sure that the question of the Sahara would not be addressed, or if addressed, discussed without touching on any aspect that could spark a diplomatic crisis between the two sister countries.

    In addition, what makes the rumor unlikely is that Tunisia has never before made a pronouncement on the Sahara in opposition to the Moroccan position. In a press conference during his visit to Algiers in February 2012, President Merzouki called for achieving a resolution to the conflict that would preserve the interests of all parties, while emphasizing that the reinvigoration of the Maghreb and the reopening of borders between Morocco and Algeria would pave the way towards the establishment of a psychological climate likely to open channels of communication and help to create new political and psychological conditions conducive to the resolution of the conflict.

    Further, since he was elected President of Tunisia following the toppling of his predecessor Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, Moncef El Merzouki has made the building of a viable and strong Maghreb Union one of the top priorities of his electoral mandate. Soon after he was elected, he made several statements in which he emphasized that “the activation of the Maghreb Arab Union is more necessary than ever,” adding that the “peoples of the region aspire to see an era of free movement with open borders come true.”

    In addition, there is also a level of personal detail to be taken into account, given that the Tunisian president’s studies in the Moroccan city of Tangier, and his father having been a political refugee in Morocco in 1956.

    In an interview with Moroccan TV channel 2M in January 2012, Merzouki emphasized his emotional attachment to Morocco, a country which he considered as his own country. “I consider myself from the Maghreb and I consider Morocco as my own country,” said Marzouki, recalling that he had studied in Tangier and that his father was a political refugee in Morocco in 1956. “My father was received by the late HM King Mohammed V and lived in Tangier and Marrakech. He remarried in Morocco, so I have brothers who are Moroccans,” he said. “Morocco is a country that is mine. We are a Maghreb family. For me, the Maghreb is not just a political reality.”

    Upon his election as Tunisian president, Merzouki had a phone call with King Mohammed VI, the latter being the first head of state to receive a phone call from the new Tunisian president.

    Moreover, Moncef Merzouki is also a staunch advocate of the return of Morocco to the African Union. His commitment to achieving that goal was put on display during the 18th summit of the Heads of States and Governments of the African Union held in Addis Ababa on January 29-30, 2012 when he stated that, “the African Union cannot do without a country as important as Morocco, this is a major anomaly that must be corrected.”

    Based on the foregoing, it would be naïve to think that the Tunisian President would take a position hostile to Morocco regarding the Sahara, especially during King Mohammed VI's visit to Tuisia. He is well aware that this conflict is the major, if not the sole hindrance, to building a true and viable Maghreb Union, and also the catalyst that pushed Morocco to withdraw in 1984 from the Organization of African Unity, the predecessor of the current African Union.

    For all of these reasons, it is unlikely that the Tunisian president or his government would take a position favorable to the establishment of a non-viable state in the Sahara.

    © Morocco World News. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, rewritten or redistributed


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    Tunisian President Hosts Dinner in Honor of King Mohammed VI

    Tunis- Tunisian president, Moncef Marzouki, hosted this Saturday at the Presidential palace of Carthage in Tunis, a dinner banquet in honor of King Mohammed who is paying an official visit in Tunisia.

    The King, who is accompanied by Crown Prince Moulay El Hassan and Prince Moulay Rachid, was welcomed at the presidential palace by the Tunisian head of state. On this occasion, the King awarded to the Tunisian president the "Wissam El Mohammadi" distinction.

    On his part, President Marzouki extended to the Sovereign the special Grand Cordon of the Republic distinction.

    The Tunisian president also awarded to the Crown Prince the Grand Order of the Republic Order and to Prince Moulay Rachid the Grand Order of the Republic Order.

    King Mohammed VI was, then, greeted by representatives of the association of Moroccan students in Mounastir and by Moroccan business operators in Sousse.

    The dinner took place in the presence of members of the delegation accompanying the Sovereign in the visit, the speaker of the Tunisian national constituent assembly, the Tunisian head of Government, the members of the Tunisian government and heads of diplomatic missions in Tunis, as well as civil and military dignitaries.


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    Tunisian President Host Dinner in Honor of King Mohammed VI

    Rabat - Morocco flatly denied this Sunday reports by some news outlets over an alleged spat between King Mohammed VI and Tunisian President Moncef Marzouki, says a release of the Royal office according to Maghreb Arab Press.

    "The absurd and unfounded information, reported by some ill-intentioned press, over an alleged divergence between HM King Mohammed VI, may God assist Him, and Tunisian President, His Excellence Moncef Marzouki, is flatly denied by the Kingdom of Morocco,” said a the release.

    “The authors of this aberration have voluntarily ignored the Tunisian Republic protocol, which like in many other countries, does not require the presence of the Republic president at the Assembly during this kind of occasion. This aberration has also been formally denied by the Tunisian Presidency. While fully understanding the fact that enemies of rapprochement between peoples and that opponents of Maghreban construction were particularly disturbed by the success of this visit and by the excellence of Morocco-Tunisia relationships, the Kingdom of Morocco can only deplore that these parties reach such baseness," the release concluded.

    On Sunday a number of Tunisian websites spread a rumor that King Mohammed VI cut short his visit to Tunisia and decided to go back to Morocco. The reason of the alleged spat was a disagreement between the two heads of state over the Western Sahara conflict.

    A communiqué issued by the Tunisian Presidency on Saturday denied such allegations.

    Tunisian President, Moncef Merzouki who studied in Tangier and whose father was a political refugee in Morocco since 1956, hosted a dinner in honor of King Mohammed VI and its accompanying delegation.

    On this occasion, the Moroccan monarch King awarded to the Tunisian president the “Wissam El Mohammadi” distinction.

    On his part, the Tunisian President extended to Morocco’s King the special Grand Cordon of the Republic distinction.

    On the first day of the two-day official visit paid by King Mohammed VI to Tunisia, Morocco and Tunisia signed 23 bilateral agreements covering various fields.


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    King Mohammed VI, Tunisian President resolved to promote exemplary ties

    Rabat- King Mohammed VI and Tunisian President Moncef Merzouki expressed determination to endeavor to promote "sound and exemplary ties serving as a major pre-requisite for the Maghreban integration process".

    The two heads of state also "underscored their firm will to endeavor to further reinforce, enrich and diversify bilateral cooperation in a way to meet the aspirations of the two brother peoples, achieve progress and prosperity in the two countries", says a joint communique released Sunday at the end of the official visit to Tunisia by King Mohammed VI.

    In this context, they stressed the importance given to carrying on joint action in order to raise bilateral relations and lend them a strategic dimension in all fields.

    The two leaders called for consolidating regular consultation between the two parties and for establishing active and balanced partnerships laying the foundations for promising future perspectives, on the path of reaching complementarity and harmony guaranteeing optimal use of economic potentials of the two countries.

    Thy also expressed deep satisfaction at the outstanding level reached by Moroccan-Tunisian bonds, voicing will to secure good preparation of the 18th high joint commission, scheduled in the second half of 2014.

    They called, in this regard, for proposing new initiatives to enrich bilateral cooperation and for the establishment of work programs with clear objectives and mechanisms, in light of the major results achieved by the visit of HM the King in Tunisia, while taking into account present priorities as well as potentials of the two countries and moving toward tapping on the free-trade agreement signed on February 25, 2004, with the genuine opportunities it offers to establish efficient partnerships with the Arab-Mediterranean free trade area.

    The two leaders welcomed the outcome of the "Moroccan-Tunisian economic forum", held on the eve of the King's visit in Tunisia, stressing the importance of holding this meeting in a regular manner and the need to secure the follow-up of its recommendations through new approaches of a balanced and solidarity-based partnership, so that this sector can contribute to reaching the longed-for development in the mutual interest of the two countries.

    In this regard, the two heads of state also underscored the importance of the two countries' private sectors in establishing strategic economic partnerships, making utmost use of economic potentials available in the two countries.


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    King Mohammed VI, Tunisian President Reaffirm Readiness to Help and Support Libya

    Rabat- King Mohammed VI and Tunisian President Mohamed Moncef Merzouki reaffirmed the two countries' readiness to bring all kinds of assistance and support to help Libya take on the challenges entailed by the transition period, preserve the integrity of its territory and guarantee its security and stability.

    The two heads of state also expressed, in a joint communiqué released on the occasion of the official visit paid by the King to Tunisia, the two countries' readiness to make their expertise in all fields available to Libya to help the Maghreban country build its institutions and reach national reconciliation and transitional justice, until the Libyan people succeeds in fulfilling its aspirations.

    King Mohammed VI and the Tunisian president, after voicing deep concern over the recent events and over their repercussions on the security and stability in Libya and neighboring countries, stressed the need to reach a political settlement to end bloodshed of the Libyans.

    The two leaders further expressed support to national dialogue between Libyan various political trends in order to reach a consensus-based political solution to the crisis in Libya.


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    Pepe Guardiola and his wife Cristina (Photo by El Mundo)

    Fez- The Spanish national and Bayern Munich coach, Pep Guardiola, is reported to have chosen the city of Marrakech to celebrate his wedding.

    According to Spanish daily El Mundo, the ceremony took place on Saturday in Morocco’s utmost tourist destination.

    According to the same source, the former FC Barcelona coach booked a charter flight on Friday to bring guests and close friends from Barcelona to Marrakech.

    Guardiola, who got married with his longtime girlfriend Cristina, is believed to have booked a helicopter to tour the city. The wedding was supposed to be attended by Guardiola’s three sons, as well as his close friends from Barcelona.

    Last December Pep Guardiola won in Marrakech the FIFA Club World Cup after Bayern Munich defeated the Moroccan Raja Casablanca Sport Club (2/0).

    © Morocco World News. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, rewritten or redistributed


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    Nancy Ajram Says She Wants to Sing a Moroccan Song

    Casablanca- Lebanese star Nancy Ajram has expressed her desire to sing in Moroccan Arabic.

    According to Moroccan news portal Hesspress, Nancy Ajram, one of the international artists taking part in Mawazine 2014, has been thinking about singing a song in Moroccan Arabic, but no Moroccan artist has yet suggested to her “the one song”.

    “Please suggest your projects to me. I really want to sing in Moroccan Arabic,” Nancy requested from Moroccan songwriters, according to the same source.

    This is the third time Nancy Ajram has taken part in the Mawazine Festival. The Lebanese diva has never turned down any request to sing in Morocco, and her fan base in the kingdom is one of the largest and rapidly growing in the Arab World. Her participation in Mawazine, as she has stated on many occasions, has been her chance to reunite with one of her most faithful fans.

    Nancy Ajram’s first participation in Mawazine was in 2008. Since then, her love has grown for the Moroccan audience, whose reaction to her first appearance on the Moroccan stage has remained etched in her memory.

    After the Tunisian Minister of Culture Mehdi Mabrouk banned Nancy, along with other famous Arab singers, from performing in the 2012 edition of the Tunisian Kartaj Festival, the Lebanese star found in Morocco’s Mawazine Festival consoling warmth.

    Nancy Ajram’s condition for any Moroccan songwriters with potential projects to suggest to her is that the song be “good music” with “great lyrics,” according to the Moroccan Press Agency (MAP).

    Nancy won her first World Music Award in the category of best artist in the Middle East in 2008. Since then, her fame has extended even more to reach other corners of the world, making of her one the most popular singers in the Arab World.


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    Moroccan tomatoes exported to the EU (Photo courtesy Lematin.ma)

    Rabat  - The growth rate of the Moroccan economy reached 4.4% in 2013 against 2.7% in 2012, on the back of the development of the agricultural activity and the reduction of funding in the context of curbing inflation, according to the high planning commission (HCP).

    The national economic growth increased in 2013, thanks to a development by the  agricultural activity, while non-agricultural activities dropped, said the HCP which issued its national provisional accounts for 2013 which also show a decrease in the need for funding.

    The Gross Domestic Product (GDP) grew by 5.5% in 2013, an increase of 1.1 % in the general level of prices.

    Agricultural value added volume increased by 19 %, against a decline of 8.9 % in 2012, while that of non-agricultural activities posted an increase of 2% instead 4.3 % a year earlier, the same source said.


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    Casablanca, Tunis stock markets sign protocol of agreement

    Casablanca - The Casablanca and Tunis stock markets signed a protocol of agreement to consolidate cooperation in information and experience exchanges, training and technical assistance, promotion of the stock market culture and development of double quotations.

    A release of the Casablanca stock market announced that the agreement was signed on Friday during the official visit paid by king Mohammed VI to Tunisia at the invitation of Tunisian president Mohamed Moncef Marzouki.

    The Casablanca stock market manager, Karim Hajji, welcomed the agreement as a new responsibility to help the two countries take on the various development challenges.

    Our two stock markets boast numerous potentials and we are endeavoring to help the two countries' enterprises find new financing sources, he said.


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    MOROCCO-SARKOZY-MOHAMED-VI

    Fez- After His Royal Majesty’s official visit to Tunisia this past weekend, King Mohammed VI is due to visit Russia next week.

    According to the Moroccan daily Al Massae, Mohammed VI’s visit is scheduled to take place on June 10 at the invitation of Russian President Vladimir Putin.

    The newspaper said that the Moroccan officials and Russian diplomats in Rabat had recently held a meeting which focused on preparation of the forthcoming Moroccan-Russian summit meeting, adding that Moscow attaches particular importance to the visit of King Mohammed VI, in the light of the dynamic role played by Morocco to consolidate stability in North Africa.

    According to the same source, the Russian Ambassador to Rabat also announced the program for the King’s visit. “Putin and King Mohammed VI will address a range of issues of common interest including the Western Sahara and the latest developments in North Africa and the Sahel region,” the Russian Ambassador was quoted as saying.

    The situation in the Middle East and Ukraine will also be discussed during the bilateral discussion, the newspaper reported.

    The Moroccan authorities are increasingly aware that they can no longer rely solely on France or the United States to propel the United Nations towards adopting a realistic approach for a mutually acceptable solution to the Western Sahara dispute on the basis of the Moroccan autonomy plan presented to the Security Council in April 2007. So they may be looking for support from Russia, as a veto-yielding member of the Security Council, which, unlike the United States and the United Kingdom, has never called for establishing a human rights monitoring mechanism in the Sahara.

     

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    King Mohammed VI

    Rabat - King Mohammed VI sent a congratulatory message to Abdel Fattah Al-Sissi on the occasion of his election as president of the Arab Republic of Egypt.

    In this message, the sovereign extended to the new Egyptian president his heartfelt congratulations and sincere wishes of success in fulfilling his mission.

    "I seize this historic opportunity to commend the brotherly Egyptian people's trust in you and I know that, in this decisive phase of their modern history, You will lead them on the way to meet their aspirations for agreement, progress and prosperity, in security and stability," said the King.

    The sovereign added that he is convinced that Al-Sissi's qualities of a seasoned statesman and wise leader, who has good intentions for the future of a big nation like the Arab Republic of Egypt, "are assets to help you assume, with devotion and sincerity, the huge tasks awaiting you. They will enable you to reinforce the rule of law and institutions and honor your political, economic and social commitments to allow the sister nation of Egypt to recover its status of influential actor on the regional and international scenes."

    King Mohamed VI reaffirmed his attachment to the solid ties of brotherhood, active solidarity and fruitful cooperation between the two countries, as well as his unwavering will to working together with the new Egyptian president to reinforce these long-standing relations for the interest of the two peoples and the Arab and Islamic Ummah.


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    Egyptian coach Hassan Shehata

    Fez- The direction of Difaa Hassani of El Jadida, has quickly found a replacement to the Algerian coach Abdelhak Benchikham who was recently hired by the Raja of Casablanca.

    According to the Facebook page of the winner of the 2014 edition of the Throne Cup, Egyptian coach Hassan Shehata has been hired to take the helm of the Moroccan team and will start his work immediately after his return from Brazil where he is expected to be honored by FIFA.

    The Egyptian national, who led Egypt to win three successive titles of the African Cup of Nations in 2006, 2008 and 2010, will lead the Moroccan club for a period of two years and earn a monthly salary of MAD 250,000 ($ 30,000).


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    Moroccan Minister of Higher education, Lahcen Daoudi

    Fez- Lahcen Daoudi, Minister of Higher Education and Scientific Research, said Monday in Rabat that Moroccan college students will be offered scholarships starting from the next school year.

    In a speech during a session of oral questions before the lower chamber of the parliament, Daoudi announced that the Ministry of Higher Education would provide scholarships to all students who will file an application for the 2014-2015 school year.

    Based on its budget for next year, the Ministry aims at extending scholarships to all Moroccan students. The budget allocated for this initiative will amount to MAD 2 billion.

    "Yes, we have raised the prices of gas and oil. Now, good news for all Moroccans. All college students, I repeat all college students who apply for a scholarship will receive it," the Minister said.

    "Two years ago, MAD 7 million were allocated to scholarships; next year the amount will reach MAD 2 billion."

    Daoudi emphasized that the ministry's goal is to support the vulnerable segments of society to pursue higher education through financial assistance. "We will support the children of the poor; we will assist those who are vulnerable. The money that was saved from raising fuel prices will be used to provide education for the poor."

    The Minister of Higher Education stressed that the main objective of this policy is "to invest in youth and invest in science, for we are in need of a knowledge-based society."

    According to Daoudi, Morocco needs to eradicate illiteracy, (30 percent of Moroccans are illiterate) by forming competent leaders able to help their country move forward and achieve development.

    "Moroccans have to have their Bachelor's degrees or at least Baccalaureate Degrees, and Universities must do their job to provide the social and economic sectors with qualified professionals."

    "There is a national consensus that investment must be in science and scientific research. No one can argue otherwise."

    “The Ministry had never invested more than MAD 15 million in scientific research,” Daoudi said.

    "For the first time in the history of Morocco we will invest more than MAD 600 million. My goal is to reach MAD 1 billion," he added.

    1 dollar= 8.22 dirhams

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    Moroccan-Dutch NGOs Oppose Appointment of Guido van Woerkom as Ombudsman

    Casablanca- Moroccan-Dutch NGOs in Holland have recently voiced their opposition to the appointment of Guido van Woerkom as the new national ombudsman. Their opposition is due to Woerkom’s discriminatory comments about Moroccan taxi drivers back in 2010.

    According to the Dutch news website Dutchnews.nl, members of the Moroccan-Dutch community have called on MPs to vote against Van Woerkom’s appointment because of the discriminatory comments he had made about Moroccan taxi drivers four years ago.

    According to the Moroccan magazine Marance, three Moroccan-Dutch NGOs are opposing the appointment of Van Woerkom. “He does not enjoy the support of a large segment of the community and is not suitable for the role of ombudsman," said a spokesperson for the Alliance of Moroccan-Dutch (NMS), according to the same source.

    For its part, the National Council of Moroccans in the Netherlands (LBM) has expressed similar concerns as to the potential appointment of Van Woerkom. "The Dutch-Moroccans do not see him as an independent, impartial and honest person that should be the national ombudsman,” the LBM was quoted by Marance as saying.

    The Council of Moroccan Mosques in the Netherlands (RMMN) shares both the NMS and LBM’s concerns on the matter. The RMMN sent an open letter to MPs, in which it stated that the problem of discrimination against Moroccans in Holland would never be resolved if Van Woerkom is ever appointed as ombudsman.

    Back in 2010, Van Woerkom had stirred a controversy after he stated, during a conference of lease car managers, that he would prefer that his wife refrain from taking cabs because the drivers could be a Moroccan.

    He later apologized, explaining that “he only wanted to draw attention to the different qualities within the taxi sector, rather than to insult people from other cultures.”

    Guido van Woerkom is currently the head of the ANWB, the Netherlands' largest motoring and tourism organization.


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    King Mohammed VI of Morocco meeting with American President Barack Obama

    Fez- A year after King Mohammed VI paid an official visit to the United States last November, American President Barack Obama is set to visit Morocco this fall.

    According to Moroccan French language website Medias 24, which cites trusted sources, the preparations for Obama’s visit to the Kingdom have already started.

    According to the same source, American diplomats and high security officials have visited a luxurious residence which is anticipated to host the American president during his stay, and the visit is expected to take place in November or December, 2014, after the mid-term elections for U.S Congress.

    Following King Mohammed VI’s visit to the White House last November, President Obama thanked the Moroccan monarch for the invitation to visit Morocco. The two heads of state decided to remain in close contact and committed to deepening cooperation between their two governments.

    “President Obama and King Mohammed VI reaffirmed their commitment to stay in close contact and to continue on a path of increased cooperation that will strengthen the United States-Morocco strategic partnership, including the next meeting of the U.S.-Morocco Strategic Dialogue in Rabat,” they said in a joint statement issued after the meeting between President Obama and King Mohammed VI. Historic relations back to normal

    It seems that King Mohammed VI’s visit last year was instrumental in rekindling the historic good relations that have existed between Morocco and the United States for more than two centuries.

    As of today the United States has the longest unbroken treaty of friendship with Morocco, which was the first country to recognize its independence in 1776.

    But this historic relationship was put in jeopardy in April 2013 when former American Permanent Representative to the United Nations circulated a draft resolution to the Security Council, which called for the expansion of the Mandate of the United Nations Mission for the Organization of a Referendum in the Western Sahara (MINURSO) to include the monitoring of human rights in the region.

    But following an unprecedented diplomatic mobilization led by King Mohammed VI, the U.S amended its draft resolution, and the resolution adopted by the Security Council did not call for the establishment of such a mechanism.

    After King Mohammed VI’s visit to the White House last November, the American President reaffirmed that the Moroccan autonomy plan presented by Morocco to the Security Council in April 2007 could be a serious and realistic basis on which to build to reach a mutually acceptable resolution to the Western Sahara dispute.

    “Morocco’s autonomy plan is serious, realistic and credible,” White House spokesman Jay Carney said at the time.

    “It represents a potential approach that can satisfy the aspirations of the people in the Western Sahara to run their own affairs in peace and dignity.”

    In spite of the efforts made by the Polisario, Algeria and their supporters to politicize the question of human rights, the latest resolution of the Security Council on the Western Sahara, which was drafted by the United States, did not call for the expansion of MINURSO to include the monitoring of human rights.

     

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    hookah

    Marrakech- Going out for hookah is a very popular social activity all over the world, including Morocco.

    There are restaurants, bars, and cafes throughout the country that offer hookah, but many people do not often think about the actual risks involved with smoking hookah.

    According to a new study published by The Huffington Post, the risks are greater than previously thought.

    The study, which was originally published in the Journal Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention, is unlike other studies because it shows the effects of an actual night in a hookah lounge, rather than in a lab setting. The researchers said that the “biomarker levels reported in this study represent more realistic exposures to tobacco smoke toxicants.”

    Researchers at The University of California, San Francisco, gathered 55 participants to take part in a study of urine samples after one night in a hookah bar of the their choice. The participants were asked to abstain from smoking for one week to ensure the findings were from only one night of smoking. Their urine samples were then tested after leaving the hookah bar and the morning after. The samples were found to have overwhelming increases in levels of dangerous chemicals, including nicotine, cotinine and volatile organic compounds. The levels of nicotine increased by 73% and chemicals that are known to cause cancer were increased two-fold.

    The impact of the study suggests, “Given the significant intake of nicotine and carcinogens, chronic water pipe use could place users at increased risk of cancer and other chronic diseases.”

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