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Russia: Moscow And Rabat Pledge To Cooperate In Fight Against Terrorism

Moscow, 15 October 2002 (RFE/RL) -- Russian President Vladimir Putin hosted Moroccan King Mohammed today in Moscow, where talks were said to have concentrated on the U.S. standoff with Iraq and the crisis in the Middle East.

The two leaders signed a series of agreements, including a declaration of strategic partnership that pledges to fight terrorism, strengthen the role of the United Nations and defuse international conflicts.

Putin said in televised statements that he hopes bilateral cooperation will be boosted: "I'm very happy that I have the opportunity to personally discuss with you [Mohammed] all the directions of our cooperation, including economic questions, questions of cooperation in the humanitarian sphere and cooperation in the international sphere, and I hope that it will be beneficial."

The Moroccan monarch said he would do everything to help make relations between Russia and Morocco "even more friendly and efficient."

Interfax cites unnamed Russian diplomatic sources as saying both countries' positions concerning the majority of "key international problems" coincide, including the opinion that force should not be used against Baghdad without UN Security Council authorization.

Interfax also quotes an unidentified Kremlin source as saying Moscow hopes both sides can work to find a political solution to the standoff between Washington and Baghdad and that Moscow places importance on Rabat's influence among Arab countries.

Mohammed arrived in Moscow yesterday and plans to visit St. Petersburg before flying to Kuwait on 17 October. Moroccan Foreign Minister Mohammed Benaissa, who is accompanying the king, also held talks with his Russian counterpart, Igor Ivanov. The two sides also signed cooperation agreements on trade, communications, space, and fishing.

The king last visited Moscow in 1982 as crown prince for the funeral of Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev.

Morocco is Russia's largest African trading partner after Egypt, with trade amounting to $380 million last year, according to the Russian Foreign Ministry.