Tunisia's new president to tour Maghreb

Tunis - Tunisia's new president Moncef Marzouki on Wednesday will kick off a tour of neighbouring states with a call for reviving the regional Arab Maghreb Union economic group.

Marzouki, who became his country's first elected head of state after the revolution that ousted Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, will first visit Morocco for three days, his office said.

Besides meeting with King Mohammed VI and head of government Abdelillah Benkirane, Marzouki will also visit the grave of his father, an opposition member who died in exile.

Marzouki will then travel to Mauritania, before heading to Algeria.

During the six-day tour, the president will discuss the relaunch of the Arab Maghreb Union, which groups all four countries, along with Libya, his spokesperson Adnane Moncer said.

"This visit is aimed at reviving the Arab Maghreb Union and discussing the holding a summit that Tunisia proposes to host," said Moncer.

According to the spokesperson, the president has already broached the issue with Algerian prime minister Ahmed Ouyahia on the sidelines of the African Union summit in January.

Created in 1989, the Arab Maghreb Union has been inactive since 1994, mainly due to the Western Sahara conflict between Morocco and Algeria.

Morocco annexed Western Sahara in 1976 after a Spanish withdrawal, and Polisario fighters took up arms for an independent state.

Algeria, however, supports the Polisario Front.

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