Archive for December 2007

Mars starts using animal products

December 27, 2007

mars.jpgSome of the UK’s best-selling chocolate bars, such as Mars and Twix, will no longer be suitable for vegetarians. Also affecting brands such as Snickers and Maltesers, owner Masterfoods said it had started to use animal product rennet to make its chocolate products.

Masterfoods said the change was due to it switching the sourcing of its ingredients and the admission was a “principled decision” on its part.

The Vegetarian Society said the company’s move was “incomprehensible”.

‘Extremely disappointed’

Masterfoods said it had started using rennet from 1 May and non-affected products had a “best before date” up to 1 October.

Rennet, a chemical sourced from calves’ stomachs, is used in the production of whey.

It will now also be found in Bounty, Minstrels and Milky Way products, and the ice cream versions of all Masterfoods’ bars.

“If the customer is an extremely strict vegetarian, then we are sorry the products are no longer suitable, but a less strict vegetarian should enjoy our chocolate,” said Paul Goalby, corporate affairs manager for Masterfoods.

The Vegetarian Society said it was “extremely disappointed”.

“At a time when more and more consumers are concerned about the provenance of their food, Masterfoods’ decision to use non-vegetarian whey is a backward step,” it said in a statement.

“Mars products are very popular with young people and many will be shocked to discover that their manufacture now relies on the extraction of rennet from the stomach lining of young calves,” it added.

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Ex-French President Chirac, wife celebrate Christmas in Morocco

December 24, 2007

7199a-jacques_chirac_en_vacances_a_taroudant.jpgFormer French President, Jacques Chirac, and his wife Bernadette, who arrived in Southern Morocco since Sunday, will be spending Christmas there, reliable sources told PANA here Monday.

Chirac and his wife are currently in Taroudant (700 km south of Rabat) where the French couple has a private residence.

Over the past few years, the couple had regularly spent their Christmas in Morocco.

As a regular visitor to Morocco, Mr Chirac has always had a penchant for the two-ochre cities of the Kingdom:Taroudant and Marrakech.

US may sell 24 Lockheed fighters to Morocco

December 23, 2007

WASHINGTON, Dec 19 (Reuters) – The Bush administration has told Congress of plans to sell Morocco 24 Lockheed Martin Corp F-16C/D fighter aircraft, advanced weapons and related gear valued at up to $2.4 billion.

The sale would boost Morocco’s ability to help in the U.S.-declared global war on terrorism and enhance Morocco’s ability to defend itself, the Pentagon’s Defense Security Cooperation Agency said in a notice to lawmakers dated Tuesday.

King Hamad visits Morocco

December 23, 2007

lpic2.jpgRABAT: His Majesty King Hamad arrived in Rabat yesterday on a private visit to Morocco, during which he will meet King Mohammed VI.

He was received at Rabat airport by Prince Mawlai Rasheed, Rabat Governor Hassan Al Omrani, Bahrain’s Ambassador to Morocco Shaikh Khalid bin Salman bin Ahmed Al Khalifa, Moroccan officials and Bahrain embassy staff.

Senegal recalls ambassador from Morocco over W. Sahara spat: report

December 23, 2007

jacques_baudin.png

 jacques baudin

DAKAR (AFP) — Senegal recalled its ambassador from Morocco “for consultations” Saturday in a dispute over the disputed Western Sahara, media reports said.

Morocco pulled its ambassador out of Dakar this week in protest at comments about Western Sahara by a Senegalese opposition member.

“The recall of Morocco’s ambassador to Senegal was an unfriendly gesture to the Senegalese people,” said a statement by the Senegalese prime minister’s office, cited by local media.

“Senegal, while waiting for clarification, recalled its ambassador from Morocco for consultations,” the statement said.

Morocco on Wednesday recalled its ambassador for three days after a senior Senegalese opposition party member appeared to back separatists fighting Moroccan rule in Western Sahara.

Former Senegalese minister Jacques Baudin lauded Polisario Front rebels who are fighting Moroccan forces in the disputed northwest African region.

According to Rabat, the comments were “contrary to the secular bonds which exist between the two countries”.

Sources close to the government expressed surprised at Rabat’s actions since Baudin’s party is not part of the government.

Spain’s top court recognizes Saharawis as stateless people

December 19, 2007

Madrid – Spain’s Supreme Court has recognized a Western Saharawi woman as stateless because the Moroccan nationality cannot be “imposed” on her, court sources said Wednesday. The ruling opens the door for other Saharawis to seek a similar recognition in Spain. Some 200,000 Saharawis are living in camps in Algerian Tindouf, which received an influx of refugees after Morocco annexed the territory following the withdrawal of the colonial power Spain in 1975. Khadijatou Bourkari Dafa, 39, came to Spain seven years ago for medical treatment on a temporary Algerian passport. Algeria refused to renew the passport, because Dafa was not an Algerian citizen. She is also not a Spanish citizen, and the Moroccan nationality cannot be “imposed” on her, the Supreme Court said. Dafa is therefore stateless, and will be entitled to the right to live and work in Spain, the court concluded. The law will open the way for other Saharawis to seek the condition of stateless people, undoubtedly to the dislike of Morocco, which regards Western Sahara as its own, commentators said. After Morocco took over the territory, the independence movement Polisario Front waged a guerrilla war against the kingdom until the United Nations brokered a ceasefire in 1991. A referendum on independence foreseen for 1992 has still not taken place, and Polisario is threatening with a new war unless Morocco finally allows the vote.

Abdelaziz Ahnafouf criticcaly injures

December 18, 2007

ahna2.jpgahna.jpgahanfouf.jpgArminia Bielefeld striker Abdelaziz Ahanfouf, 29, was critically injured in a car crash on a motorway on Monday evening, the club said on its website. The club quoted a police report saying his car crashed into a truck from the Netherlands and that the fire brigade was needed to extract him from the car after it was wedged underneath the truck. The website of Kicker.de said Ahanfouf, who has six caps for Morocco, suffered severe head and face injuries in the crash. He has scored 12 Bundesliga goals in 60 matches. 

We wish speedy recovery for Abdelaziz.

quotation of the day

December 18, 2007
“The world is not dangerous because of those who do harm but because of those who look at it without doing anything.” 
–Albert Einstein

Parents Want Justice For Son After Arrest

December 15, 2007

Published: December 15, 2007

TAMPA – Hamou Moussaoui and Anissa Zekkari came to the United States from Morocco on Wednesday, proud parents, eagerly anticipating their son’s graduation from the University of South Florida with three degrees.

On Thursday morning, their world turned upside down. They were thrust, they said, into hell.

“Instead of having an engineer, we have a prisoner,” Hamou Moussaoui said Friday. He said he feels the $300,000 he spent on his son’s education slipping through his fingers.

His son, Karim, 28, was arrested, charged under what his attorney says is a little-used law that makes it a federal crime for someone in this country on a student visa to possess a firearm. The charge – punishable by up to 10 years in prison – arose from a visit to a Tampa firing range authorities say Karim Moussaoui made in July with friends who were later arrested.

The friends, Youssef Megahed and Ahmed Mohamed, both Egyptian nationals, were charged in August with transporting explosives after their car was pulled over in South Carolina. Mohamed also was accused of trying to help terrorists by posting a video on YouTube in which he demonstrated how to use a remote-controlled toy to detonate a bomb.

For the Moussaoui family, association with that case and media stories linking Karim to explosives are horrifying.

All he did was pose for a picture with an unloaded gun, they say. “A souvenir picture turned out to be a crime,” said Zekkari, speaking through an interpreter hired by The Tampa Tribune. She said she fainted when she heard of her son’s arrest, and has not slept since.

Karim Moussaoui, smiling confidently about 24 hours after his release from federal custody, said he’s not worried about what’s going to happen to him. “I’m definitely confident justice will take place,” he said, “since I only took a little souvenir, since we don’t have guns in our country, and I have the best lawyer in Tampa, Mr. Stephen Crawford.”

He said he was up late Wednesday night studying for his last exam. He finally crawled into bed at 4 a.m. to rest up before the test, scheduled for 1 p.m. Thursday.

At 6 a.m., he said, 10 FBI agents knocked on his door. They put guns to his roommates’ heads, but not to his.

“They got me some clothes, sneakers and a shirt,” he said. “It was a peaceful arrest. I had no clue what was going on … They just took me out.”

He said he was taken to the federal courthouse downtown, fingerprinted, photographed and otherwise processed. He was interviewed by a probation officer about his background. Then his attorney, Crawford, showed up.

“I feel I was being treated as subhuman, since they have animal rights,” Karim Moussaoui said. “I felt criminalized without being a criminal.”

Family Expects Justice To Be Served

The family was interviewed in Crawford’s office Friday afternoon. Under the attorney’s direction, they would not discuss the specifics of the charges.

Like their son, however, the parents said they trust the right thing will happen. “We’re always optimistic,” Zekkari said. “Our son didn’t do anything wrong.”

“There is justice,” Hamou Moussaoui said. “We’re in a country of justice and democracy.”

Karim Moussaoui had planned on returning to Morocco to take over his father’s business after his graduation today, but now he is being forced to remain in Florida until his legal case is decided.

About to lose the right to live in his dorm room, he must find an apartment with a telephone so federal probation officers can monitor his whereabouts and he can be fitted with an electronic ankle bracelet.

Two of his three degrees are in jeopardy, he said; he is negotiating with the university about making up the missed exam. “I missed a final in a class where I have all 100s,” he said.

Without the exam, he will get a D, which will keep him from getting two degrees, he said. It would be “the one D in my life.”

He said his degrees in computer science and computer information systems are in jeopardy, but he expects he will graduate with at least a degree in computer engineering.

His parents had planned to leave Sunday. Now they’re unsure what they will do. Probably, they said, one of them will remain behind while the other returns home.

The family business, Cabinet D’ Expertises Hamou Moussaoui, provides engineering expertise and consulting on construction and testifying in court. Hamou Moussaoui said he built the business from nothing more than 25 years and now has 12 experts who work in Casablanca, Marrakesh, England and Senegal.

They live comfortably in Casablanca with a villa and a 3 1/2 -acre farm, they said. Zekkari works as a schools inspector, stressing the importance of education to their children, who also include two daughters.

Zekkari said she’s involved with an organization called “Morocco Feminists International,” which defends women against violence.

‘He Has Nothing To Do With It’

In addition to education, the parents said, they stressed “good behavior” to their son. “General respect, politeness” were the values passed on.

They said Karim loves the United States and pushed to come here to study.

“He doesn’t like when other people say bad things about America,” Hamou Moussaoui said of his son.

He said Karim calls the U.S. Constitution an example to the world. In America, he said, “everything is spacious” and people have “a beautiful life.”

Hamou Moussaoui said his son never left his side growing up. “I wanted to teach him the right way.”

The parents said they learned of their son’s arrest when two FBI agents came to their hotel Wednesday morning.

“I felt paralyzed,” Hamou Moussaoui said. “I couldn’t move.”

The couple didn’t know where to go, what to do. They didn’t even have a rental car. They called Crawford, who they said calmed them down, assuring them he would do his best to have their son released that day.

None of this makes any sense, they said.

“My son doesn’t talk about politics,” Hamou Moussaoui said. “Politics doesn’t do anything for him. Terrorism – he has nothing to do with it. He has one goal – his education and being successful.”

Bosnia: Divided We Stand

December 15, 2007

najlae.jpgBY Najlae Benmbarek

and Durrell Dawson

“Divided We Stand,” FRONTLINE/World’s latest story from Bosnia-Herzegovina, is a departure from our past Bosnia coverage. As always it starts by recalling the tragedy of the civil war in the 1990s, but this time we focus on young people, a new post-war generation looking for ways to move on.

The unofficial capital of Herzegovina, the ancient Ottoman city of Mostar lies along the Neretva River and is the fifth-largest city in the country.

The word Mostar means “old bridge,” but that very bridge, the town’s most famous symbol, was blown up during the war, along with the city’s long history of religious tolerance and integration. Before the war, children from different ethnic groups went to school together. Today, they are mostly segregated. Even though the bridge has been rebuilt, Mostar is still very much divided, with Muslim Bosnians living on one side and Christian Croats on the other.

Najlae Benmbarek and Durrell Dawson traveled to Bosnia to find out how communities are working to overcome the divisions of the past. They made a surprising discvovery. The youth of Mostar had joined forces to commission a statue of a hero — someone agreeable to them all. When churches, mosques, bridges — even the airport — were rebuilt in this war-torn region, all created controversy based on whether the place was historically Croat, Muslim or Serb. The statue commissioned by these young people stands as the only monument erected in postwar Bosnia without an uproar.

The mastermind behind the statue idea was Serb writer Veselin Gatalo, who told Benmbarek that the choice they made symbolized universal justice and reminded many in the group of their childhood.

For those of you who don’t recall the news coverage around the unlikely hero’s unveiling, we will let the video itself reveal their choice.

Joelle Jaffe
Associate Interactive Producer

Stealth campaign underway to name late Moroccan king as righteous gentile

December 15, 2007

By Marc Perelman, The Forward

RABAT, MOROCCO – Morocco and Israel have a longstanding relationship veiled in secrecy, one involving quiet diplomatic initiatives and discreet intelligence cooperation. So it is only fitting that it is a stealth campaign that is pushing to have a former king of Morocco become the first Arab admitted to Yad Vashem’s Righteous Among the Nations, which recognizes non-Jews who risked their lives to rescue Jews during the Holocaust.

No formal request has been submitted to have Mohammed V, the wartime king, admitted to Yad Vashem. Promoters of the initiative in Morocco and in Israel are reluctant to talk about it publicly and are working behind the scenes.

“There is no formal demand; this is an exploratory phase,” said Serge Berdugo, who heads Morocco’s Jewish community and is a Moroccan ambassador-at-large. “All Moroccan Jews here and in Israel dream about it, but it is a long and difficult process.”
Robert Satloff, executive director of the pro-Israel Washington Institute for Near East Policy, prompted the latest round of activity on the issue. His book “Among the Righteous: Lost Stories From the Holocaust’s Long Reach Into Arab Lands,” published last year, describes the antisemitic persecutions suffered by Jews in Arab countries during World War II and sheds new light on the positive role played by Mohammed V.

After the book appeared, Berdugo quietly inquired with Yad Vashem about the possibility of honoring the late king. He received the endorsement of Israel’s president, Shimon Peres, and that of a number of Israeli politicians of Moroccan origin.

In addition to history, there are some more immediate motivations behind the campaign. The obvious symbol of having an Arab – especially an Arab leader – among the Righteous at a time of turmoil in the Middle East is seen as sending a signal that relations between Israel and the Arab world are slowly improving. The trend is further illustrated by a July meeting in Paris between then-Moroccan foreign minister Mohamed Benaissa and his Israeli counterpart, Tzipi Livni. Morocco also attended the Annapolis, Md., conference last month and is likely to be among the first of those Arab countries without formal ties to Israel to take steps toward normalization if a genuine peace process takes hold.

For Jerusalem, the Yad Vashem move would show its determination to normalize ties with Arab countries. And Morocco could project an image of moderation at a time when it is courting Washington’s support on Western Sahara, a disputed territory that Morocco claims, but also one that a separatist group supported by Algeria would like to become independent. After years of paralysis, Morocco recently unveiled an autonomy proposal for the region and won cautious support from the Bush administration after years of America’s neutrality on the issue.

Morocco has no official diplomatic relationship with Israel, though it does not observe the Arab League boycott and was one of the few Arab countries to establish low-level diplomatic ties with Israel during the Oslo peace process.

Over the years, Morocco has, on several occasions, helped the Israeli-Arab process through discreet diplomatic initiatives, such as facilitating the Israeli-Egyptian breakthrough of 1977 and hosting Israeli leaders. This started with a historic visit by Shimon Peres in 1986, at a time when there was no peace process. In addition, the intelligence services of both countries have enjoyed a good relationship over the years, including Israeli tips of plots against the royal family and negotiations over the exodus to Israel of hundreds of thousands of Moroccan Jews, according to books published in recent years. Both the diplomatic and the security ties, which are the exclusive purview of the king and his inner circle, are rarely discussed in Morocco, given the strong public pro-Palestinian sentiment.

Whether Mohammed V, who died in 1961, will become a member of the Righteous remains uncertain, given Yad Vashem’s strict eligibility rules. Among the 22,000 Righteous, some 70 are Muslims, most of whom are from Turkey and the Balkans. There are no Arabs among them, according to Yad Vashem spokeswoman Estee Yaari, who added that no formal request had been submitted for the late Moroccan monarch.

The trickiest criterion is determining whether the late king actually risked his life to save Jews during the rule of the pro-Nazi French authorities from mid-1940 to November 1942, when American troops arrived and changed the balance of power. Citing testimonies of the king’s quiet resistance campaign against the French antisemitic edicts, Berdugo claims that the king had indeed done so.

When the Vichy regime extended its anti-Jewish laws to Morocco in October 1940, the king maneuvered to limit their implementation. A 1941 telegram from the French foreign ministry, uncovered in the mid-1980s, discussed the worsening tensions between the French authorities and the king because of Mohammed V’s unwillingness to distinguish among his subjects. Some Moroccan Jews even claim that he asked the French authorities to bring him yellow stars for his family to wear. Some observers have expressed doubt over the episode, which illustrates the near-mythical aura of the king among Moroccan Jews – the vast majority of whom immigrated to Israel and Europe after Israel’s independence and the 1967 war.

Richard Prasquier, Yad Vashem’s representative in France, believes that Mohammed V did not risk his life. Prasquier also said that he was never confronted with an official request that they be deported to Nazi death camps. Others suspect that diplomatic calculations are the main impetus behind the campaign.

“It’s a nice political coup,” said Ahmed Benchemsi, editor of the leading independent weekly Tel Quel. The magazine published a story a few months ago about the existence of forced labor camps in Morocco for some 2,000 Jews who had fled Europe during World War II.

At the time described in Tel Quel’s story, the French authorities were in control of Morocco and oversaw the camps’ administration, leaving little power to the king. But the article raised doubts over his willingness to protect Jews beyond Moroccan ones.

Satloff, who declined comment for this article, recounts in “Among the Righteous” the hardship of those far-flung camps, but he absolves the king of responsibility.

Satloff has a ready explanation for the fact that no Arabs have made it to Yad Vashem: a collective unwillingness to be associated with the Holocaust, which is perceived in Arab countries as the direct impetus for the creation of Israel.

In order to break this taboo and to respond to the spread of Holocaust denial in the Arab world, Satloff himself submitted a formal request to Yad Vashem early this year for Khaled Abd al-Wahab, a Tunisian aristocrat who hid a Jewish family from the Nazis, based on testimony from a family member. In contrast to Morocco, Tunisia was under direct Nazi rule at the time, which could bolster al-Wahab’s chances. The museum said his application was under consideration.

Morocco: Overturn Verdicts for Homosexual Conduct

December 13, 2007

(New York, December 12, 2007) – The criminal verdicts in Morocco against six men sentenced to prison for homosexual conduct should be set aside and the men released, Human Rights Watch said today.

The court of first instance in Ksar el-Kbir, a small city about 120 kilometers south of Tangiers, convicted the men on December 10 of violating article 489 of Morocco’s penal code, which criminalizes “lewd or unnatural acts with an individual of the same sex.” According to lawyers for the defendants, the prosecution failed to present any evidence that the men actually had engaged in the prohibited conduct in the first place.  
 
“These men are behind bars for private acts between consenting adults that no government has any business criminalizing in the first place,” said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East and North Africa director at Human Rights Watch. “The men’s rights to privacy and freedom of expression have been violated, and the court has convicted them without apparent evidence; they should be set free.”  
 
The men have been in jail since they were first arrested by the police between November 23 and 25, 2007, after a video circulated online – including on YouTube – purporting to show a private party, allegedly including the men, taking place in Ksar el-Kbir on November 18. Press reports claimed the party was a “gay marriage.” Following the arrests, hundreds of men and women marched through the streets of Ksar el-Kbir, denouncing the men’s alleged actions and calling for their punishment.  
 
Abdelaziz Nouaydi, a Rabat lawyer on the men’s defense team, said that the judge convicted the men even though the prosecution presented no evidence showing that an act violating Article 489 had occurred and offered only the video as evidence. The video showed no indications of sexual activity. The men all pleaded innocent to offenses under the article, which has a statute of limitation of five years. At the trial, the judge refused to release the men provisionally pending their appeals.  
 
Criminalizing consensual, adult homosexual conduct violates human rights protection in international law. The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), which Morocco has ratified, bars interference with the right to privacy. The United Nations Human Rights Committee has condemned laws against consensual homosexual conduct as violations of the ICCPR. The United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention has held that arrests for consensual homosexual conduct are, by definition, human rights violations.  
 
In the preamble to its constitution, Morocco “subscribes to the principles, rights, and obligations” consequent on its membership in organizations including the United Nations “and reaffirms its attachment to human rights as they are universally recognized.”  
 
The court sentenced three defendants to six months in prison and two defendants to four months; it sentenced the sixth, who it also convicted of the unauthorized sale of alcohol, to 10 months. The defendants range in age from 20 to 61 years old.  
In a private letter to Moroccan Justice Minister Abdelwahed Radi before the trial, Human Rights Watch urged the government to drop the charges and release the men. The letter also urged authorities to ensure the men’s physical safety, in light of the large and menacing mass demonstrations that took place against them.  
 
“In applying an unjust law in an unjust fashion, the Ksar el-Kbir court has fueled the forces of intolerance in Morocco,” said Whitson. “If Morocco truly aspires to be a regional leader on human rights, it should lead the way in decriminalizing homosexual conduct.”  
 
Article 489 of the Moroccan Penal Code punishes homosexual conduct with sentences between six months and three years in prison and fines of 120 to 1,200 dirhams (US $15 to $150).  

Former Algeria Boss Cavalli Takes Over At Wydad Casablanca

December 13, 2007

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Former Algeria boss Jean-Michel Cavalli has taken over as boss of Moroccan outfit Wydad AC of Casablanca.

The Reds failed to defend their 2005-06 title last season, finishing a disappointing fourth, meaning that the door was open for a new boss to take over after a similarly disappointing start to the current campaign.

Cavalli, given his experience with Algeria, seemed to be the ideal candidate to replace the sacked Plamen Markov, who so far has only managed to steer the side to fifth place this season.

The Fennecs and Cavalli parted ways after failing to reach the 2008 Nations Cup, losing out to Gambia in their final game of qualification.

Ajaccio-born Cavalli, 48, most notably served as boss of Lille in the mid 1990s. He’s also served the likes of Al-Nasr and Al-Riyadh in Saudi Arabia, Ionikos, and Creteil.

Steve Michaels, Goal.com

Ramiz narrates ordeals of his illegal journey to Morocco

December 13, 2007

Ramiz Uddin, an unfortunate Bangladeshi, finally returned to home after walking hundreds of miles for 26 days on foreign lands. After facing untold sufferings on way to Spain, his destination to change the luck that he could not reach. Finally he decided to return home and went to Bangladesh Embassy at Raba, Morocco.

Narrating his long ordeals Ramiz told a press conference at Police Headquarters yesterday that married but unemployed he first went to Dubai in 2004. Failing to change his luck there his father-in-law in Dubai sent him to Spain at the fag end of May this year.

“Having no valid passport and visa I’ve crossed Niger, Algeria and reached Morocco. There I walked at least 400kms from Oujda and reached Raba in 26 days,” said 30-year old Ramiz lamenting his ill luck. He hails from Bara Saleswar village under Biyanibazar in Sylhet district.

He said he met with a Nigerian at Oujda, a town bordering Morocco. He took him to a hotel where 14 illegal Bangladeshi immigrants were staying. “We all walked through the Sahara desert to reach Algeria. On way we were caught in sandstorm. I fell unconscious while others were stuck up under the sands. We were extremely hungry and passed the days without food and water.”

During their risky journey, Ramiz said they spent 5 days in a forest of Morocco when a mafia group beat them and took away the belongings.

Inspector General of Police Noor Mohammad present at the press conference said during his visit to Morocco for the Interpol meeting in November last year the Bangladesh embassy informed him about Ramiz.

In his own initiative the IGP arranged the return of Ramiz with the help of Nigerian representative of International Organization of Migration. Ramiz flew back home this morning.

Lebanon bomb kills senior general

December 12, 2007

James Sturcke and agencies
Wednesday December 12, 2007
Guardian Unlimited

The man tipped to be the next head of Lebanon’s army, Brig Gen Francois Hajj, was killed today by a car bomb in a Beirut suburb.

Three others died with Hajj as they drove through a Christian suburb of the Lebanese capital in the early morning, authorities said.

Hajj, 55, a Maronite Catholic, was a potential candidate to succeed the army commander Michel Suleiman, who could be appointed president.

The blast is the first attack of its kind against the Lebanese army, which is seen as the one force that can hold the country together. Increasingly acrimonious relations between parliament’s rival factions in recent months have paralysed the government.

The Syrian-backed opposition party Hizbullah condemned the attack, saying Hajj was a “friend” of the Lebanese people, al-Jazeera television reported.

However, the telecommunications minister, Marwan Hamadeh, accused the “Syrian-Iranian axis” of hitting the military – “the only body in Lebanon who can balance the power of Hezbollah and other militias in the country.”

Syria, in turn, blamed Israel, accusing it of targeting the Lebanese military for its “anti-Israel doctrine”. A Syrian official, quoted by the state news agency Sana, said Hajj “nurtures the resistance [Hizbullah] and has worked for a united Lebanon and rejected division”.

Suspicion also fell on Fatah militants defeated by the army following three months of fighting earlier this year. Hajj had led the operation at the Nahr el-Bared Palestinian refugee camp during which 168 soldiers and about 230 Fatah al-Islam fighters were killed.

The explosion happened at 7.10am Lebanon time (5.10am GMT) on a busy street near Baabda municipality as school buses and workers were setting off.

“This morning, the criminal hand targeted head of army operations Brig Gen Francois Hajj with a bomb as he drove in his car opposite Baabda municipality, which led to his death along with a number of soldiers, and wounded others,” the military said in a statement.

“The army sealed off the area and has started investigating.”

Security officials said Hajj, who lived in the area, had left his home a few minutes earlier and was probably heading to the nearby defence ministry when a car bomb went off near his vehicle.

The blast wrecked cars and caused heavy damage in the area, which houses foreign embassies.

Lebanon is embroiled in its worst political crisis since the end of the 1975-90 civil war, with tensions running high between pro-government and opposition groups. The country has been without a president since November 23 when Emile Lahoud left office and a deadlocked parliament failed to elect a successor.

Hajj headed ground operations during a three-month summer offensive against militants at the northern Lebanon Palestinian refugee camp of Nahr el-Bared. Hundreds were killed in the fighting, which ended in September with the army defeating Fatah militants.

The government and its supporters are locked in dispute with opposition groups over how to elect the army commander, Gen Michel Suleiman, as a compromise candidate for the presidency.

Wooded, hilly Baabda is the historic capital of Mount Lebanon province and the presidential palace is on a nearby hill. The defence ministry and the command are in the adjacent town of Yarze.

On September 19 a bomb killed the anti-Syrian politician Antoine Ghanem on a Beirut street, an attack blamed on Syria by his supporters in the governing coalition. Syria has denied involvement.

A truck bomb killed the former premier Rafik Hariri in 2005 in central Beirut.


Double bomb blasts kill 26 in Alger

December 12, 2007

Latest reports say a Senegalese and a Danish citizen were among the 26 killed Tuesday morning in a double bomb blast which injured 177 others in the Algerian capital, Algers, an interior ministry statement quoted by the country’s press agency (APS) reports.

The Senegalese national was a UN official working in the Algerian capital city, the Algerian news agency disclosed, quoting the Interior Ministry that counted eight foreigners among the injured, including five Asians and two Africans (one Senegalese and one Cameroonian), and a Lebanese lady also a UN official, APS said.

The armed branch of the Salafist Group for Preaching and Fight (GSFC) is suspected to have perpetrated the attacks, as they are known to be the a branch of Saudi Arabia National Ben Laden’s Al-Qaeda outpost in the Maghred.

A first car exploded shortly before 10 o’clock am in front of the Supreme Court, near the Constitutional Council, blasting a students’ bus on its way to the faculty of Law.

Ten minutes later, a tank lorry with a kamikaze inside it exploded at the headquarters of the UN High Commission for Refugees (UNCHR) in the neighbouring district of Hydra, where ministries and diplomatic residences are hosted.

Four UNHCR staff members were killed and fourteen have not been found yet, a provisional report of the ministry indicated, whereas the previous death toll was 62 dead people according to hospital sources.

According to official sources, the Salafist group claimed the attack in a message on an Islam allegiance website indicating that two “martyrs have cast two bomb cars loaded with 800 kgs of explosives against the headquarters of the international den of non-believers”.

“It’s a new conquest by the Knights of Faith to defend the injured Islam nation”, the statement read, quoting the French daily “Le Figaro” , promising to disclose the pictures of both suicide bombers.

According to the Algerian Minister of the Interior, Nourredine Yazid Zerhouni “some members of GSFC had voiced their intention to target the Constitutional Council in Ben Aknoum” where the first blast took place early Tuesday.

According to the Algerian Agency, these assumptions have prompted the Algerian minister of the Interior to blame the double attack on the Salafist group, which the minister Zerhouni described as “terrorist organisation”.

MN/aft/ks/APA 11-12-2007

http://fr.youtube.com/watch?v=h0u2_uQVT00

 

Sheik Talal Nasser al-Sabah, a nephew of the Emir of Kuwait ,sentenced to death

December 11, 2007

Sheik Talal Nasser al-Sabah, a nephew of the Emir of Kuwait,who severed the penis of a very popular egyptian singer,was sentenced to death by Kuwaiti judicial authorities .He was found guilty of heroin trafficking …..pro1.jpgpro1.jpg

leonardo dicaprio enjoying the moroccan sun

December 11, 2007

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Morocco: Newspaper Forced to Alter Front Page for Fear of Censorship

December 11, 2007

Reporters Without Borders has expressed its concern when the printers of the “Journal Hebdomadaire” forced its management to change its front page photo and others inside for fear the edition would be seized if it was printed as it was.

Managing editor, Ali Amar, changed photos illustrating a feature on a work by two Moroccan artists – inspired by French artist Gustave Courbet’s painting “Origin of the world” – which had been withdrawn from an exhibition in Mexico at the request of the Iranian ambassador, who found it “prejudicial to the Muslim religion”.

Amar told Reporters Without Borders that the printer had been convinced that the Moroccan authorities would not allow the edition in question, on 30 November 2007, to go on sale.

“The Moroccan state did not have to intervene in this censorship decision. It is currently benefiting from effects of pressure it has put on printers for several months,” the worldwide press freedom organisation said. “They are now becoming censors by proxy and are over-doing it to avoid any further confrontation with the authorities.”

The Moroccan authorities in August 2007 cordoned off the premises of the printers Idéale for several days and destroyed copies of the weekly “Tel Quel“, on the orders of the interior minister Chakib Benmoussa. A member of the printers’ management was questioned by police in connection with legal proceedings against the paper’s editor. At a recent meeting with print company executives the minister warned them to be “vigilant” (see IFEX alerts of 7 August 2007, 6 January 2006, 31 October and 17 August 2005).

 

The Third Root – Morocco Video Teaser

December 11, 2007

Excerpts from The Third Root – Morocco Documentary. A story that travels through Mexico, Spain, and Morocco with Mexican Guitarist, Camilo Nu. Camilo performs with musicians along the way as he searches the roots of Mexican music.

http://www.brightcove.tv/title.jsp?title=1336779311

Full text of King Mohammed VI to the 2nd EU-Africa Summit hosted by Lisbon

December 11, 2007

Lisbon, Dec. 8 – Following is the full text of the speech of King Mohammed VI to the 2nd EU-Africa Summit in Lisbon, read out on his behalf by Prime Minister Abbas El Fassi.

Praise be to God                Peace and blessings be upon the Prophet, His Kith and Kin
Mr. President,
Distinguished Heads of State and Government,
Your Excellencies,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

It gives me pleasure to address this message to the Second Summit of African and EU Heads of State and Government, which is an important step in the process of consolidating dialogue and solidarity between our two continents.

I should like to extend my sincere thanks to the government and people of Portugal for their efforts to ensure the success of our Summit.

Our Cairo Summit, in the year 2000, set the stage for an innovative, ambitious partnership between our two continents. It reflected our firm belief in our common destiny and in the inter-dependence of African and European interests and concerns.

We set ourselves the target of making the Africa-EU partnership the linchpin of our solidarity in facing the challenges of globalization. We wanted our partnership to contribute to the integration of international exchange relations and to help us foster closer cultural ties. We also wanted to protect the African-European partnership against all trends which are incompatible with the principles of mutual understanding, in order to avoid distrust or exclusion, and to promote, instead, the aspirations and ambitions we had agreed upon.

Seven years later, the Lisbon Summit is offering us the opportunity to take stock of our achievements, pave the way for a strategic, promising and fruitful partnership, and adopt a practical plan of action to enhance our consultations and streamline our policies.

Your Excellencies,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

Africa is currently facing new regional and international challenges relating to the threat of terrorism, the disruptions caused by globalization and the complexities of migration. However, most African countries are doing all they can, using endogenous means to implement reforms and rise to the challenges confronting them.

This dynamic reform process, as well as the economic performances achieved, are a strong signal from Africa to its partners to let them know that Africa is on the move, that it is determined to embrace change, and that it seeks to play its full-fledged role in the new world balance.

In addition to exerting these efforts, Africa has to face challenges relating to poverty, illiteracy, unemployment, pandemics and the environment. It also suffers from the consequences of several armed conflicts and hotbeds of tension in Africa which severely undermine its capabilities and divert its resources away from development targets.

It is therefore our duty to support African countries in the area of conflict prevention, management and resolution, and to assist them in reconstruction efforts.

Two challenges are particularly serious: the temptation to balkanize national entities, and the provision of support to separatist movements and fictitious entities which are irrelevant in today’s world of strong blocs and coalitions.

The instability resulting from such a situation represents a breeding ground for trafficking in arms, drugs and human beings, and for the establishment of terrorist networks which threaten stability in the entire region.

To face this situation, all partners should first address the threat looming over the sovereignty, national unity and territorial integrity of African countries. They are also called upon to tackle the pressing challenges confronting Africa.
Preserving national unity and promoting regional integration in secure, stable environments are essential to enhance solidarity, reduce tensions and overcome disputes. The latter are often anachronistic because they date back to times long gone by; they can be resolved only through dialogue and consultations carried out in an open, realistic spirit.

Achieving such lofty goals requires commitment to good neighborliness, mutual respect, and avoiding all acts that are likely to offend national sentiment.

Your Excellencies,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

True to the spirit of the longstanding ties it enjoys with its African environment, and in keeping with its commitment to South-South cooperation, the Kingdom of Morocco has sought to develop mutually profitable relations with African countries, based on trust and solidarity.

In the last few years, I have been to several sister African nations to hold talks with their leaders, to consider prospects for exchange and complementarity with African countries, and to serve our common interests, particularly with respect to sustainable development. In this regard, Morocco has sought to foster the principles of participation, solidarity and proximity, drawing inspiration from the National Initiative for Human Development, which I launched in the spring of 2005.

The positive results obtained in this regard, and the projects carried out in cooperation with several African countries, are a source of deep satisfaction. It is our firm intention to pursue this form of participatory action which promotes the sharing of experiences and know-how with sister African nations, as well as the implementation of projects designed to improve human development indicators and achieve the Millennium Development Goals.

Morocco is determined to strengthen exchange relations as part of an effective, solidarity-based triangular cooperation, from which all African countries can benefit, and in which the European Union would play a key role.
Thanks to its geographic location, its history and its cultural traditions, the Kingdom of Morocco has always fostered dialogue and interaction. Today, it is giving concrete substance to African solidarity and is seeking to promote cooperation between Europe and Africa.

I should like, in this respect, to commend the promising initiative of the President of the French Republic, my dear friend His Excellency Nicolas Sarkozy, which calls for an innovative Euro-African partnership, of which the Mediterranean would be the axis and the main pillar. Thanks to this initiative, our partnership is likely to gain strategic momentum.

Your Excellencies,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

Environmental problems are among the main challenges confronting Africa. Growing forest depletion, creeping desertification, soil degradation, drought, poor access to water and climate change compound poverty and threaten population stability. This Summit should therefore enable us to give new momentum to our partnership, commensurate with the challenges of sustainable development and climate change. Just as important is the need to enhance African capabilities to control these phenomena and restrict their harmful effects.

Dedicated action is needed because of the interdependent nature of environmental problems and development requirements. Such an approach can contribute to greater population stability and better control of migrant movements.

Having increased significantly with globalization, migration has special meaning in the Euro-African environment, where it is basically a reflection of economic and demographic disparities between the two continents.

Concerted policies for the management and control of migration issues, using a comprehensive, integrated approach, would enable us address migration-related concerns and tensions, and at the same time make the most of migrants’ contributions to development on both sides of the Mediterranean.

The Euro-African Conference on Migration and Development, held in Morocco in July 2006, made it possible for consultations between our two continents on this highly sensitive issue to gain a firm footing. It also showed that the proper response to current migration issues cannot be individual, or even bilateral, much less exclusively security-driven. The response has to be collective, trans-regional, multi-dimensional, future-oriented and, above all, inspired by humane considerations.

We do hope the next Euro-African conference, to be hosted by France in the second semester of 2008, will lead to a greater implementation of the Rabat Action Plan, and that it will address the broad range of issues inherent in migration.

Your Excellencies,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

The challenges we face and the great potential of the Africa-Europe relationship offer a historic opportunity to lay down an innovative framework for partnership between a united Europe and an emerging Africa; a solid, equitable partnership based on mutual respect and shared interests.

Africa and the European Union should see to it globalization becomes a tool for development, not a cause of marginalization. Sustainable development, trade and regional integration should be key areas in Euro-African cooperation mechanisms.

It will be helpful, in this respect, to take into account the regional dimension in Africa, and to attach special importance to the rich, diversified experience the EU has had with each African region, through such mechanisms as the Cotonou Agreement, the Euro-Mediterranean Partnership and the European Neighborhood Policy.

Beyond a comprehensive, strategic approach to Africa as a whole, we should seek, through the operational instruments of our partnership, to give special importance to the Regional Economic Communities (RECs), which are the central element of – and prerequisite for – regional integration.

We hope the Economic Partnership Agreements the European Union is currently negotiating with each African region will make it possible to fulfill the aspirations of African nations.
 
Your Excellencies,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
In the years to come, our partnership should be based on a new, dynamic approach to political dialogue and consultations between our two continents, for the purpose of promoting peace and security, fostering good governance standards, and strengthening cooperation in economic, social, technical, human and cultural sectors.

Our combined efforts to achieve the above objectives require regular follow-up – both technical and political – so that the Joint Strategy and the Action Plan to be adopted by our conference may achieve their full potential.

Your Excellencies,
The way forward is now clearly charted, and we do hope that, by the time we convene our next Summit, our special partnership would have enabled us to make significant progress.

Thank you.

Wassalamu alaikum warahmatullah wabarakatuh.     
             Mohammed VI
             King of Morocco
The Royal Residence, Guelmim
30 November 2007

Dutch Greefa to deliver two sorting machines to Kabbage Souss, Morocco

December 11, 2007

Tholen – Last week, Greefa, a Dutch producer of packaging and sorting machines, signed a contract in Morocco. Greefa will deliver two sorting machines of the Greefa SmartSort type to the Moroccan company Tariq Kabbage. Henk Pagrach  of Greefa signed the contract with Tariq Kabbage, main shareholder of Domaines Kabbage and Station Kabbage Souss, president of citrus exporter GPA and mayor of the Moroccan municipality of Agadir.

The two sorting machines will deliver an input capacity of 40 MT of tangerines per hour, according to Henk Pagrach. “This makes Station Kabbage Souss the largest sorting and packing station for citrus fruit on the African continent. We are very proud to have our name on those machines,” says Henk Pagrach.

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It hasn’t been simple though. “We have been talking about this new line for two years. Many drawings have been made in order to optimize the packing line according to the customer’s wishes,” tells Henk Pagrach of Greefa. Finally we came to an agreement.

The cooperation between Greefa and Kabbage started about four years ago. “Four years ago, we delivered a sorting line for oranges and tangerines to Station Kabbage Souss, whose fruit is marketed by GPA,” says Henk Pagrach. Juvisa, Greefa’s Spanish partner, will supply the input and packaging systems for the new sorting machines.

Banyan Tree enters Morocco

December 11, 2007

abc.jpgBanyan Tree brand Angsana has moved into Morocco as it continues to open more hotels outside of its traditional Asian market.

The luxury hotel company officially opened five out of seven of its Riad Collection around Marrakech. All of the Riads have between five and eight rooms and have been restored in Moroccan style.

Banyan Tree executive chairman Ho Kwon Ping decided to open up Riads in Morocco after visiting the city two years ago.

He said: “It is in Riads you get a real sense of Morocco and Marrakech. It is not a luxury hotel experience but we believe it is the heart and soul of Morocco, from the sense of smell to the colours. However you get the quality of service you would get from any Banyan Tree or Angsana Hotel.

Banyan Tree and Angsana is continuing to expand with more properties set to open in Dubai, Barbados, Morocco, Thailand , Mexico and Bali. There are also plans to move into European destinations such as Turkey.

kelly ranson

Gay marriage in Ksar lekbir,Morocco once again

December 11, 2007

 we were accused by a  moroccan newspaper , al ahdath, of inventing the story of the gay marriage in Ksar lekbir, Morocco and that we wrote about something we did not know about….This newspaper ,and all the francophone moroccan press,has maintained that such marriage has never taken  place and that some islamists have invented the whole story in order to harm the reputation of Morocco…..my ass.!…Morocco’s reputation is safe ,like it or not…..and it can’t be harmed by an article or two….so stop behaving the ostrich way…..

i have just one question: if this is not a gay marriage, what is it then?

updated: the bride,Fouad, was sentenced to ten months’ imprisonment….fouadcopy.jpg

                                the bride, Ms FOUAD

Up to ten-month prison terms for ‘sexual perverts’

Tangiers, Dec. 11 – Six people were sentenced Monday evening to prison terms ranging from 4 to 10 months in what is considered as the most publicized case of homosexuality in Morocco.

    The main suspect, Fouad F got ten months and was fined MAD 1000 (about USD 130) on charges of sexual perversion and illegal sale of alcohol. He was found not guilty of the charge of “public offence to morals”.

   Two other people were sentenced to 6 months imprisonment and two to 4 months.

   The six defendants were arrested in the city of Ksar El-Kebir in northern Morocco, following participation in a November 19 ceremony thought to be a gay wedding.

Their lawyers criticized the verdict insisting on the lack of evidence and the absence of “flagrante delicto” and argued that their clients are victims of an over-publicized case.
 
  A preliminary investigation, quoted by the Minister of the Interior himself, showed that the gathering was a ceremony of the mystic Gnawa sect, practiced by descendants of African slaves. While some participants were dressed in women’s clothing, the ceremony’s organizer claimed that he only wanted to re-enact a vision in which a woman asked him to dress like her and offer a gift to the saint Sayyed Al-Madloum.

     Speaking before the Interior, Decentralization and Infrastructure Committee of the House of Representatives, Chakib Benmoussa insisted that “regardless of any media and political exploitation of this event, it is worth mentioning that the preliminary investigations showed this ceremony was linked to pure charlatanism-related rituals.”

   The incident sparked uproar in the conservative city of Ksar El-Kebir where over 600 people took to the street, chanting slogans condemning what they thought to be a gay wedding.

no more comment………..

Hey big spender: the £3m spree that landed a Saudi prince in a London court

December 9, 2007

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 Saudi ambassador Prince Mohammed bin Nawwaf bin Abdul Aziz. Photograph: Martin Argles

David Leigh and Rob Evans
Friday November 16, 2007
The Guardian

It is a remarkable shopping list by any standards. And it has landed the Saudi ambassador to Britain with a possible £3m debt, and the embarrassment of having allegations about the ostentatious spending habits of the royal family laid bare. Bills he is claimed to have run up on an array of luxury amusements include two top-of-the-range Chevrolet 4x4s, a thermal night vision kit for his Hummer H2, dozens of designer watches and jewels, a selection of handguns and two Arab karaoke machines. One takeaway meal came to almost $800 (£391). And then there is the $2,500 item on a trip to a hotel in Casablanca that reads: “Girls: party night 5”.

These, and scores of others, are detailed in documents filed to the high court in a claim against the ambassador, Prince Mohammed bin Nawwaf bin Abdul Aziz, a nephew of King Abdullah. Last month, he was ordered to pay more than £3m to his family’s former private secretary, Walid El Hage, a Briton of Lebanese extraction and a former director of an Arab bookshop in the UK, who spent many years as confidante to the ambassador and his father. He claims he spent the money on their behalf.

The 54-year-old ambassador ignored the court proceedings, and had judgment awarded against him by default. But he now says he is hoping for an “amicable settlement”. A meeting with the El Hage camp has been arranged for next week and the prince says he is seeking to have the court judgment set aside.

El Hage’s lawyer, Ian Bloom, says his client, who is abroad, declines to comment. But those close to him say he believes the ambassador’s diplomatic immunity is uncertain, because the alleged debts were incurred before he took office.

In a normal case, a debtor’s property could be seized. But under the Vienna convention, other diplomats and their London families currently get away with activities from shoplifting to refusing to pay the congestion charge.

According to the documents filed by El Hage, he picked up bills as the prince went on trips to Rome, Vienna, Casablanca and Paris in 2004 and 2005, immediately before his posting to London.

As well as conventional, if large, bills for hotels, cars and security guards, the lists include charges for a variety of the world’s most sophisticated brand-name items.

There is a list of 43 luxury watches allegedly bought in just 18 months at a total cost of at least £350,000. They included a Patek Philippe for £23,000 and two Jaeger Le Coultres for £17,500 and £16,700.

In January 2004, it is alleged, the prince left Riyadh for a European trip. He bought cutlery from specialist Paris shops Curty & Fils and Laguiole for €22, 990 (£16,439).

His family also allegedly invested in the must-have female fashion item – a crocodile Birkin bag listed at €18,770. Outfits from the couturiers Lanvin allegedly cost a further €150,000.

A Beretta pistol (€6,761) also figures on the list, along with a Cartier watch (€27,000) and antique guns, shotgun, and swords (€66,000).

Back in Saudi, it is claimed the prince spent £1,200 on three ivory tusks with amber and turquoise, and a red and gold crystal set for £9,000. A fleet of Yamaha Grizzly, and Big Bear quad bikes set him back £13,000.

But this was a small sum compared with the $183,000 which went on purchase and freight charges from the US for five highly sophisticated Raytheon thermal night vision cameras, to be fitted on his H2 Humvee US-army derivative vehicle. A large US pick-up, a Chevrolet Avalanche, is listed as “full options $39,250”.

A specialist off-road rally car, the Wildcat African Raid, built by a UK firm in Derbyshire, on a Land-Rover chassis is listed as £94,000.

In March, the prince went on a further trip to Austria and on to Casablanca. There was an alleged visit to the famous Swarovski shop on Vienna’s Kartnerstrasse of which it is said “almost any self-respecting Viennese lady has a Swarovski necklace, bracelet, or pair of earrings”. The total bill was said to be $25,000.

In Morocco, items read: “hotel extra suite expenses, rooms for girls etc $1,465 … girls party night 5 $2,500… Moroccan sweets arrangement to take away $250 … HRH cash in hand $20,000”.

One striking purchase listed is an “ST Dupont lighter limited edition” for $1,769, which carries a mother-of-pearl and platinum rendering of the design of the Taj Mahal.

Back in Jeddah, the prince is said to have bought many Persian rugs, more vehicles and watches and gifts of amber. As well as some low-calorie sweets, he also allegedly splashed out on the import of a suite of exotic pets, (with cages) including parrots, mynah birds and a Dr No-style white Persian chinchilla cat.

A large selection of guns also figure on the alleged invoices These include two Czech CZ75D and CZ97B pistols, a French Famas assault rifle and a Micro-Uzi machine gun of Israeli origin. The Austrian Glock 18C “special tactical weapon” is described in one advertisement as “particularly popular with VIP security personnel. Nothing stops an assassination attempt faster than a hail of 9mm bullets”.

According to the court claims, the ambassador’s luggage of choice is Delsey and Zero Halliburton aluminium suitcases, whilst in cigars, his preferences run to the latest offering from Cuba – the Cohiba Siglo VI “Canonazo” brand. His alternative choice is alleged to be the Lusitanias Double Corona, described as “a truly great cigar” with “cedar wood, leather and cinnamon”.

The PR grandee Lord Bell last night issued a statement on the ambassador’s behalf. It said that El Hage had worked for the prince’s father for 27 years until he suffered a stroke in 2002. “The nature of the relationship subsequently changed.” Lawyers in Saudi Arabia were handling the claim, and had asked for receipts “in order to consider the expenses claimed and as appropriate to seek to reach an amicable settlement”.


Court documents: the alleged debts in full (pdf)

More court documents (pdf)

 

A kosher hotel takes root in Marrakech

December 9, 2007

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                                the ogre city

By Romina Ruiz-Goiriena

MARRAKECH, MOROCCO

When Moroccan-born Israeli chef Mordechai Perez decided to visit Marrakech to search for his roots, he had no idea that he would also be making a career move. In short order, he would find himself the chief chef of Marrakech’s first-ever kosher hotel and restaurant, slated to open its doors this month.

“After my mother died, I left Israel,” relates the 44-year-old Perez. “A month ago, I came to Marrakech searching for my roots. I came and I stumbled onto this kosher hotel project.” “When I got the job as head chef, I decided to stay.”

He came to Marrakech, in part, to learn about his father’s legacy. “My father was the head of a village 75 km from here. He would come here every day because he was dedicated to the promulgation of Marrakech Jewish life.” Seated in the place his late father used to pray 60 years ago, Perez shares stories of the Jews who inhabited the Mellah in the beginning of the twentieth century. He is especially moved to be serving the same community which his father, Yaacov, served as rabbi.

To the casual observer, the quarter where the hotel is situated reflects the Muslim character of Morocco, its narrow alleys flooded with children playing and elders fasting for Islam’s holy month of Ramadan. But on closer inspection, the true nature of the Mellah, the Jewish quarter – in essence, the Moroccan version of the ghettos of European cities – becomes clear. Many of the homes are still decorated with mezuzot and a wealth of other sacred Jewish symbols. “The sign of a Jewish home,” Perez sighs with nostalgia, referring to a mezuzah in a Muslim-owned house.

Today, Marrakech is home to 300 Jews out of the 2,000 in the whole of Morocco. Marrakech’s Mellah, once a vibrant shelter to those expelled from Spain after 1492, recalls an era in which both Jew and Muslim were involved in the salt and spice commerce, and both lived and prayed within the medina’s thick paprika-red walls.

A veteran of hotel kitchens in Israel and in Belgium, Perez will be responsible for implementing all of the kashrut dietary regulations in the new facility. “I am one of the only ones in Marrakech trained to ‘kosherize’ and be a proper shomer (Kashrut Supervisor),” he says.

Jews in Marrakech

For co-owner Prosper Kadoch, 43, the new hotel and restaurant, located 15 minutes from the Mellah, is about creating a place for the Moroccan Jewish community, as well as “providing a home in Marrakech for Jews worldwide.” In recent years, adds co-owner Simon Acoca, 45, “Marrakech has undergone an incredible transition, and it is definitely a tourist hot-spot. We are just trying to open the market for Jews as well.”

In one of the most important cities in Africa, there is without doubt a need for real kosher cuisine, Kadoch says. Mindful of observant guests, the hotel and restaurant are to maintain strict standards of kashrut. The hotel will also have an in-house synagogue, and will anticipate the needs of those keeping Shabbat. The hotel and restaurant will be run in such a way that “the one who can observe the most can observe the least,” says Kadoch.

Although their primary target is Jewish community, the hotel will be open to visitors of all kinds. “What is important is that they understand that they will be complying with a kosher environment,” Acoca says. In addition, the hotel is to organize sightseeing tours to historic Jewish landmarks and areas in Marrakech. The owners aim to “contribute to a Jewish experience in the middle of Marrakech while still indulging in everything the Maghreb has to offer.”

The question of terror

For some potential visitors to Morocco, the specter of terrorism has been a factor in delaying a trip. Limor Azulay, 36, of Jerusalem, concedes that what has held her back from touring Morocco is fear. “My mother is Moroccan, and although I?ve always been interested, I’ve always been too afraid to go.” The fear has been underscored by multiple suicide bombings in Casablanca in 2003, whose targets included a Jewish-owned restaurant, and by the Moroccans involved in the Madrid train bombings the next year.

Mindful of the damage to tourism, the government has since made security – and a sense of safety for tourists – a high priority. “When it comes to tourism, there is a certain air of tranquility to be found in Morocco, and no one is willing to sacrifice that,” Acoca says. Perez agrees. “Word on the street is that there are little spurts of terrorism, but we know that the king takes care of them silently,” he says.”I have only been here for a month, I go outside of the mellah and everyone tells me “shalom, shalom” Perez says. “I speak back to them in my mother tongue, Moroccan Arabic, and they know that I am a Moroccan Jew. I know that there is nothing to be worried about.”

Naqniq, R. I. P.

December 9, 2007

xymphora published these bad news…good news…..bad news because a human being was prevented from expressing himself/herself freely…..bad news because we all know why this blog was suspended and who was behind this evil act….next time don’t bring the old same story about democracy and Human Rights  and human lefts……..this blog was not suspended in iran, saudi arabia or zambia……

Naqniq, R. I. P.

Naqniq has been suspended by WordPress for the mysterious “violation of our Terms of Service”.  Since all it did was accumulate material from other sources, almost entirely ‘mainstream’, and allow the cumulative effect of the facts to damn Zionism and its apologists, the only conceivable problem, besides some inflammatory titles, is that it was becoming too successful in its mission.  It would be nice if some WordPress bloggers decided to ‘suspend’ WordPress for this egregious breach of the basic ethos of the internet. 

naqniq, you have all our support,sympathy and respect ( though we disagree about some of the contents of your blog

3,5 tons of hashish seized in Morocco

December 9, 2007

get_img.jpgOne person suspected of smuggling drugs was killed, and 3,5 tons of hashish were seized by the Moroccan army fleet near Al-Hoseima in the north-eastern part of the country, it was officially announced.

The suspect, whose identity was not revealed, was killed in a boat in which he transported 120 packages of hashish, the royal fleet reported.

This is the largest shipment of hashish confiscated in Morocco since 24 July this year.

Leonardo Dicaprio honoured with Golden Star Award in Morocco

December 9, 2007

image21.jpgActor Leonardo DiCaprio received an honorary award from director Martin Scorsese at the opening of the seventh Marrakesh Film Festival in Morocco.

At the award ceremony Martin lavished praise on the actor as he presented him with a Golden Star Award on Dec 7.He complimented the ‘Titanic’ star for “always working till he breaks through the psychological depth of the character he has to play.”“I never fail to be amazed by his clear and complete commitment to his work,” Contactmusic quoted Scorsese, as saying.DiCaprio, who has worked with Scorsese in Gangs of New York, Aviator and The Departed, returned the compliment by calling the director, “a legend”.

The two are set to reunite next year (08) for their fourth movie together, ‘Shutter Island.’

The festival, which honored Scorsese himself in 2005, runs until 15 December (07)

An Islamist prisoner brought a woman secretly in his cell

December 6, 2007

     A Moroccan  Islamist jailed in the prison of Ain Borja, Casablanca has managed to bring  a young woman  in his cell and have sex with her…   The woman  spent two days with the prisoner , who is by the way a member of the Salafiya Jihadia movement, before  she was` discovered.’ This is the first time that  such thing happens in a  Moroccan prison ….What is funny and strange  about all this ,is the fact that this young woman got into the prisoner’s cell hiding in a big suitace…….…i am really mute….i am dumbfounded….i am sure that you will ask yourself hundreds of questions ……most of them realted to Moroccan prisons and to the true faith of islamists who , by wanting to change the world has forgotten to change themselves…charity begins at home……..does it??????