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Morocco king urges MPs to confront 'threats'

Mohammed VI named a new government led by Aziz Akhannouch, a billionaire tycoon close to the palace who will face pressing economic problems exacerbated by the coronavirus pan   -  
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Addressing lawmakers a day after he named a new government, the king urged them to focus on "consolidating Morocco's standing and the defence of its supreme interests, especially in a context charged with challenges, risks and threats".

Morocco's King Mohammed VI urged the country's new parliament on Friday to defend the country's sovereignty and "stand up to external threats" amid "challenges and risks" in the region.

He did not specify the threats or their source, but the North African kingdom has been locked in a deepening crisis with neighbouring Algeria, which in August cut diplomatic ties following mounting tensions over Western Sahara.

Morocco claims sovereignty over the former Spanish colony, a position backed by Washington since a deal last year that also saw Rabat normalise ties with Israel.

Algeria backs the Polisario Front, which seeks independence for the territory and has declared a 30-year-old ceasefire with Morocco "null and void".

King Mohammed called Friday for measures to secure self-sufficiency in foodstuffs, medical supplies and energy "to strengthen the country's strategic security".

His speech via video link came a day after he announced the cabinet of incoming prime minister, billionaire tycoon Aziz Akhannouch, who trounced incumbent Islamists in September elections but will face pressing economic issues exacerbated by the coronavirus pandemic.

The king said the economy was set to grow by 5.5 percent in 2021, after a seven percent recession last year in the depths of the coronavirus pandemic.

He called on Akhannouch, seen as close to the palace, to lead "national efforts" to overcome the crisis and push forward a programme to bring healthcare to 22 million of the country's 36 million population by 2025.

The king has extensive powers and the final say on strategic decisions, even though he ceded some of his prerogatives to parliament or the government in a new constitution adopted in 2011.


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