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Moroccan King Marks Year in Power

July 31, 2000 GMT

RABAT, Morocco (AP) _ King Mohammed VI on Sunday marked his first year on the throne with promises to move his North African nation toward becoming ``a modern society″ by establishing rule of law and reducing poverty.

The 36-year-old monarch inherited the throne on July 30, 1999, after the death of his father, King Hassan II, who ruled for 38 years.

Dignitaries and some of the world’s last remaining monarchs attended a celebration at the royal palace in Rabat, including the Sultan of Brunei and Jordan’s King Abdullah II.

In a speech broadcast on national television, Mohammed VI told his nation that reforms were among his top priorities.

He called on politicians to end the partisan quarrels that gridlock the government. He also said he will take measures to strengthen rule of law.

To ease mounting poverty, he said he wants to increase social planning.

The gap between rich and poor continues to widen in this North African country of 30 million people, where the unemployment rate stands at 20 percent. Economic growth is stagnant and drought is a major problem for farmers.

In foreign policy, the king has followed in his father’s footsteps, maintaining alliances with the United States and France and seeking to remain a force of reconciliation in the Mideast peace process.

In a message to the king, President Clinton said the United States looked forward to ``several years of special relations″ with the king and with Morocco.