(AFP) – May 23, 2011
RABAT — Islamist groups may be manipulating young pro-democracy demonstrators in Morocco that have recently protested in several parts of the country calling for political reform, a minister said Monday.
"The Moroccan government has nothing against the February 20 Movement, but we suspect its members are being manipulated by the Islamists and the movements of the left," communication minister Khalid Naciri said.
"The programme of the Islamists and the movements of the left have nothing to do with democratic reform," he claimed.
King Mohamed VI has already pledged to institute reforms, including curbing his own power, following a series of protests by young people associated with the February 20 Movement inspired by pro-democracy uprisings around the Arab world.
"Morocco will ... go through with the reforms announced at the highest levels of the state," said Naciri.
On Sunday, Moroccan police used clubs to disperse hundreds of young demonstrators in cities around the country.
Several people were injured in Tangiers, according to protest leaders.
Naciri said Morocco was "determined to deal with Islamist movements" using popular calls for democracy to "to serve their own agenda."
He singled out the Justice et Bienfaisance (charity) Islamist group, which is officially banned by the government but continues to operate with tacit approval.
"The accusations of the government are not new," Fathallah Arsalane, a spokesman for the group told AFP.
"The state must respond to the political and social demands of Moroccan society, instead of hounding our movement," he said.
An official commission is expected to present proposals for reform to the king next month. Mohammed VI has pledged to create a clearer separation of powers and to reinforce the prime minister's authority.
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