British Foreign Secretary Visits Morocco



British Foreign Secretary William Hague arrived in Morocco on Monday after a short visit to Libya during which he counseled neighboring countries against providing refuge to Muammar Qaddafi or any of his supporters who have been arraigned by the International Criminal Court. Speaking later at a news conference in Rabat after talks with Morocco's Foreign Minister Taieb Fassi Fihri, Hague welcomed constitutional reforms taking place in the north African kingdom. He said the Arab Spring uprisings had increased the importance of resolving a long dispute over the status of Western Sahara.Morocco seized Western Sahara, a former Spanish colony, in 1975, and since then it has been the subject of a dispute between the Moroccan government and the Polisario Front, an independence movement backed by neighboring Algeria. Hague said, "We see this as an exciting time and an extremely positive time across the Arab world in different ways, in different countries. But we want to strengthen our partnership with and our support for Morocco at this time. We also discussed the importance of regional integration which could deliver great benefits across this region. Some studies have estimated that while free trade areas with the United States and the European Union could led to an increase in GDP of four or five billion dollars, that would double if trade areas were unified across the Maghreb." While Hague was in Libya, he met with Libyan National Transitional Council chairman Mustafa Jalil in Tripoli on Monday, after attending a ceremony formally re-establishing Britain's diplomatic presence in Libya. Hague told journalists that his country would release the remaining Libyan bank notes held since the beginning of the revolution. An estimated $150 billion in sovereign assets once controlled by Qaddafi and his inner circle was frozen abroad by foreign governments and 144 tonnes of gold is being held by the Libyan central bank. Speaker: British Foreign Secretary William Hague By: Ikram Al Yacoub Al Arabiya with Agencies

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