Tunisian leader wants early Maghreb summit

2012-02-09 13:10
Rabat - Tunisia's new president Moncef Marzouki on Thursday paid a visit to his father's grave on the second day of a visit to Morocco marked by an appeal for reviving the dormant Maghreb Union.

Marzouki, who spent much of his youth in exile with his family in Morocco, was travelling to Marrakesh, in the south, to pay respect to his father, a long-time opponent of former Tunisian president Habib Bourguiba.

Wednesday evening, at a meeting with members of the Tunisian community in Morocco, he called for the holding of a Maghreb summit this year to push for a revival of the Maghreb Union.

"We would like to see a Maghreb summit this year ... If we manage to do so, the Arab Maghreb Union will be back on track," Morocco's MAP news agency quoted him saying.

The five-nation Arab Maghreb Union was created in 1989 as a trade agreement meant to eventually achieve deeper political integration between Tunisia, Algeria, Morocco, Mauritania, and Libya. But it has been inactive since 1994, mainly because of the dispute between Morocco and Algeria over Western Sahara.

Marzouki was a prominent opposition figure and human rights campaigner under the 23-year-rule of Tunisian president Zine el Abidine Ben Ali - brought down by a popular uprising in January 2011.

He hopes the "Arab Spring" revolutions will breathe new life into the union.

Moroccan Prime Minister Abdelilah Benkirane has spoken of his country's will to open borders between the Maghreb neighbours and encourage co-operation.

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