Tunisian president renews concern over Maghreb union construction
Tunisia-Morocco, Politics, 11/11/1998
President Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali of Tunisia renewed his concern over the construction of the Arab Maghreb Union (UMA) and expressed hope that this construction would be materialized "the soonest possible to be at the rendez-vous of the 21st century and its challenges."
President Ben Ali made the statement while conferring with the UMA secretary general, Tunisian Mohamed Amamou.
Amamou told reporters after the meeting that President Ben Ali had asked him to consolidate the Rabat-based secretariat general of the union at the human and material levels to enable it fulfill its tasks.
The UMA that was set up in Marrakesh in 1989 and that musters Algeria, Libya, Mauritania, Morocco and tunisia, is paralyzed due to strained relations between Morocco and Algeria over Algiers' direct involvement in the Sahara issue and due to Libya's criticism of the attitude adopted by the other UMA members in the Lockerbie crisis opposing Tripoli to western countries.
Amamou said the president also stressed the need to achieve Maghreban complementarity and integration.
Last Saturday, President Ben Ali said in a speech on the occasion of the 11th anniversary of his coming to power, that "the Maghreb construction is a historical claim of our peoples and a legitimate goal of our countries... and we rely on Maghreban leaders' sincere will and faith in the shared destiny to make the necessary stride on the path of the UMA construction."
The situation of the UMA was also brought up by the secretary general of the Moroccan nationalist "Istiqlal Party" (PI), Abbes El fassi, in an interview with Tunisian daily "Achourouk."
El Fassi who is currently on a visit to Tunisia recalled that the idea to set up a maghreban community dates back to the early fifties when a bureau of the Arab Maghreb was opened in Cairo and was renewed during the Tangier conference of 1958 that gathered the three maghreban political parties, the Algerian National Liberation Front, the Moroccan Istiqlal party, and the Tunisian Neo-Destour.
The PI secretary general deplored the low level of inter-maghreban trade exchanges pointing out that despite the existence of genuine possibilities for economic complementarity, these exchanges do not exceed 1 percent of Maghreban countries' exchanges with the rest of the world.
He stressed the need to overcome the obstacles hampering the Union's march through the consolidation of democracy to enable the peoples of the region to have their say and proposed to upgrade inter-maghreban relations at the level of the civil society and through energizing bilateral actions as these will serve multilateral actions, he said.
El-Fassi had renewed at an earlier meeting with the Tunisian president the determination of King Hassan II to upgrade bilateral cooperation and Morocco's wish to see the Arab Maghreb Union constructed.
Abbas El-Fassi visited Tunis along with delegates of other Moroccan political parties to attend an international symposium on the challenges of the 21st century, held November 4-5 under the aegis of the Tunisian ruling party "the Democratic Constitutional Rally" (RCD).
During the visit, the "Istiqlal Party" (PI), which is participating in the Moroccan socialist-led coalition government, and the RCD convened to sign a framework accord for cooperation in all fields.
Tunisian president confers with Moroccan political leader
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