By Karima Rhanem | Morocco TIMES 2/12/2006 | 6:56 pm
Some 200 Moroccans staged a sit-in on Sunday in front of the Parliament in Rabat against the visit of the US Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, who arrived the same day in Morocco's capital for a two-day official visit, AFP reported.
The protest, which was organized by the Moroccan Association for Human Rights (AMDH), brought together Moroccan intellectuals and lawyers. The demonstrators held slogans denouncing Rumsfeld's visit, the US led-war in Iraq and Afghanistan, and Morocco's security and military cooperation with the United States.
The banners read: "No to a war criminal's visit to Morocco", "No to Morocco's integration in America's security and military imperialism", "Guantanamo: a crime against humanity" and "Down with American imperialism." They also chanted slogans denouncing "the presence of secret detention camps across the world" as well as "the State's terror practised by the US."
"We (AMDH) have organised this sit-in to protest against Donald's Rumsfield's visit to Morocco because we can't tolerate the integration of the Kingdom of Morocco into the security and military plans of the USA", said Abdelhamid amine, the AMDH president.
On his arrival to the Rabat-Salé airport, Rumsfeld was greeted by the Foreign Minister, Mohammed Benaïssa. The US official is expected to meet the Moroccan Sovereign on Monday in Ifran (Middle-Atlas).
The Defense Secretary's visit comes after he met on Sunday with Algerian senior government leaders.
Rumsfeld also visited Tunisia on Saturday where he toured the North Africa American Cemetery and laid a wreath in honor of the 2,841 US servicemen buried near the ancient city of Carthage on the Mediterranean Coast.
Rumsfeld praised Tunisia, Algeria and Morocco for their role in combating terrorism and hoped to strengthen the cooperation with the three countries in this field.
Rumsfeld is visiting Morocco for the fourth time. In an exclusive interview with Groupe Maroc Soir, Rumsfeld said he will be meeting with several Moroccan leaders to discuss issues of common interest.
These will include Morocco's leadership in international peacekeeping and counter-terrorism efforts, ongoing and potential threats to security and stability in North Africa and the Middle East, and the strong military-to-military relationship between our two countries.
Rumsfeld said that NATO and the Maghreb countries share concerns about security and stability threats to the North African region – including terrorism, narcotics trafficking, and the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.
“That is why it is important to continue to improve our ability to communicate and work with each other,” stressed the Defense Secretary.
Rumsfeld's visit followed that of the FBI director Robert Mueller who paid a two-day visit to Morocco this week.
Discussing security cooperation, the FBI head also said that the US and Maghreb countries have to work closely together to exchange information to prevent attacks and criminals from preying on our people. “Therefore, associations and friendships between our countries are exceptionally important,” Mueller told Morocco Times.
Mueller also met with his Moroccan security counterpart and discussed ways in which they continue to cooperate together in the area of exchanging expertise on fingerprints, fingerprint databases, on giving assistance and developing a DNA database structure so that in the future they can exchange these forensic tools and be able to address these terrorism threats.
Rumsfield's visit coincides with the handing over to the Moroccan authorities of three Moroccans, formerly detained in the American Base in Guantanamo Bay. Najib Lahssini, Mohamed Souleimani Laalami and Mohamed Ouali are now under the supervision of the General Prosecutor of Casablanca.
Morocco, a strong US ally in the region, has clamped down on suspected cells of Islamic radicals since 2003, when multiple bombings in the country's business capital Casablanca killed 45 people and shocked the normally peaceful country.