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Friday, February 13, 2004

Moroccan king invites American Jewish delegation

JPost: King Mohammed VI of Morocco will meet early next week with a leadership delegation of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, his first such meeting since ascending the throne in 1999.

Morocco closed down its Tel Aviv liaison office and severed diplomatic ties with Israel in October 2000, following the outbreak of Palestinian violence.

The Conference of Presidents credited the Moroccan-Jewish community, and its president Serge Berdugo, for aid in arranging its first visit to the country. "Mr. Berdugo has worked assiduously together with the Moroccan government," it said in a statement, declaring that the visit "will allow for an exploration of vital issues of common concern." The statement added: "We are also appreciative of the support of the United States government for this mission."

Official Israeli sources said that the visit should be viewed more in the context of Morocco's desire to maintain its warm ties with Washington than as a sign of change in its relationship with Israel.

Mohammed VI's father, King Hassan II, was known for his close contacts with the Moroccan-Jewish community, which today numbers some 6,000, and a relatively moderate view of Israel compared with other Arab leaders.

Mohammed VI has been cited as one of the US's strongest allies in the Arab world in the war of terror since 9/11.

A Jewish center in Casablanca was among the targets in a bombing spree by Islamic terrorists last May that killed two dozen people. Morocco reacted strongly to the attack, rounding up hundreds of suspected Muslim extremists and last September handing down heavy prison sentences to 18 men linked to terror cells.