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Moroccan king favours reopening border with Algeria

AFP , Saturday 30 Jul 2011

Morocco's King Mohammed VI said on Saturday he was in favour of reopening the country's border with Algeria, closed since 1994 amid tensions between the north African neighbours.

"We are keen to launch a new open dynamic on resolving all remaining problems, as a prelude to total normalisation of bilateral relations... including the reopening of terrestrial borders," the king said in his annual speech from the throne.

The border between the two countries was closed in 1994 following an Islamist militant attack in Marrakesh that Morocco blamed on the Algerian secret services.

"This approach excludes intransigence and ostracism, which are incompatible with neighbourly relations, the necessity for integration in the Maghreb and the expectations of the international community," the king said.

Tensions on the border region occasionally flare and last week a clash between Moroccan border guards and armed men coming from Algeria left one soldier dead.
A security source told AFP the armed men appeared to be Islamists and after the fight they retreated into the mountains.

Relations between Morocco and Algeria have also been strained by the long-running dispute over the Western Sahara. Morocco's 1975 annexation of the territory, a former Spanish colony, sparked a war between its forces and Algerian-backed Polisario guerrillas. The two sides agreed to a ceasefire in 1991 but UN-sponsored talks on Western Sahara's future have since made no headway.

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