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Bush Gets Moroccan View of the Middle East

Nora Boustany  Washington Post Wednesday April 24, 2002 A18

After postponing his wedding and planned public festivities this month as a gesture of sympathy for the recent loss of life in the West Bank, Morocco's King Mohammed VI arrived Sunday on a state visit to Washington without his intended bride.

He lunched at the White House yesterday with President Bush, who sounded out the 39-year-old monarch on an Israeli-proposed Middle East peace conference. Bush plans to hear the views of other U .S. allies when Saudi Crown Prince Abdullah visits Crawford, Tex., this week and when Jordan's King Abdullah arrives in early May, Moroccan sources disclosed.

A high-ranking official of the Moroccan delegation said Mohammed agreed to the peace conference in principle but insisted it would have no meaning "unless Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat participated as the legitimate and only representative of the Palestinian people with his full team." 

The Moroccan also suggested a foreign ministers' meeting to coordinate "the proper vision for what needs to be concluded and to set the agenda in order to guarantee a positive outcome," the official added.

The official said Bush and his guest discussed the war on terrorism, issues involving the Sahara and the Maghreb region of Northwest Africa and a bilateral free trade agreement that was announced yesterday.

The "substantive session" of talks and working lunch were attended by Vice President Cheney, Secretary of State Colin L. Powell, national security adviser Condoleezza Rice, U.S. Trade Representative Robert B. Zoellick and White House spokesman Ari Fleisher. On the Moroccan side, the king's adviser Andre Azoulay, Foreign Minister Mohammed Benaissa, Finance Minister Fathallah Oualalou and one other adviser took part.

One source in the delegation said Mohammed noted that the conference would have to be preceded by "a complete and unconditional Israeli withdrawal from Palestinian areas invaded this month, the free movement of civilians and the restoration of Arafafs capacity to govern." 

The general view in the delegation, the source said, was that there was "no alternative to having two states living side by side, Palestinian and Israeli, but the immediate concern was how to bring it about now, not later, and how to revive trust and a minimum of confidence between the parties." The Moroccan king expressed in the strongest terms his praise for "Powell's personal dedication and extraordinary efforts toward a political settlement to this tragedy," the source said.

Mohammed met with CIA director George J. Tenet, World Bank President James D. Wolfensohn, the International Monetary Fund's Horst Koehler and Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham. In the early evening he met separately at Blair House with Arab American and American Muslim groups as well as with Jewish American organizations. After meetings on the Hill, the king will head to New York today and then to Houston for a meeting with former president George Bush at his presidential library.

Moroccan Ambassador Abdallah El Maaroufi will leave Washington within a week for a still-undisclosed post, official sources said. His successor will be Aziz Mikwar, Morocco's ambassador in Rome.

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