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Maghreban officials in Algeria for revival of Arab Maghreb Union

ArabicNews.com, 18 May 1999

Officials from the five North African countries forming the Arab Maghreb Union (UMA) who met in Algiers on Monday have all called for the revival of the union that they described as an inevitable strategic choice.

The representatives of Algeria, Libya, Mauritania, Morocco and Tunisia who are taking part in the 35th session of the UMA follow-up committee have all pointed out that it was high time to ponder earnestly on the completion of the Maghreban construction process.

Recent developments in the Maghreban region, especially the election of a new president in Algeria and the settlement of the Lockerbie issue, are seen as potential factors for the reactivation of the Maghreban process.

Morocco’s delegate to the meeting, Mohamed Rachad Bouhlal, secretary general of the ministry of foreign affairs and cooperation, expressed hope that the Maghreban march would overcome the difficulties that have so far hampered the UMA construction and that the region countries would join efforts to meet the peoples’ aspirations to development, prosperity and stability.

He said the follow-up committee should make a comprehensive and objective assessment of the UMA process and identify the obstacles that crippled the materialization of the UMA goals.

Algerian minister in charge of Maghreban Affairs, Lahcene Moussaoui, who opened the session said the union is a decisive project for Maghreban peoples who aspire to a more strengthened solidarity and brotherhood and to a fruitful and constructive cooperation.

The Maghreban union tops Algeria’s priorities as a strategic project that must be shielded from conjuncture and ephemeral contingencies, the Algerian official said, renewing his country’s determination to foster Maghreban integration and solidarity.

The Libyan delegate to the meeting, Slimane Saci Echehoumi, secretary general of UMA within the Libyan popular committee, made a series of proposals to reactivate the union. He stressed in this regard the need to revive the UMA secretariat general and called for developing a strategy to set up free trade areas between Maghreban states, and to improve inter-Maghreban transport through the construction of highways, servicing of high-speed trains and setting up of a Maghreban carrier.

After he underlined that the seven-year long embargo against Libya had negatively impacted on the country’s development program, he hailed the measures adopted by Maghreban countries to alleviate the negative incidence on Libyan economy.

Echoing him, the Mauritanian secretary of state for UMA affairs, Sheikh Ould Ayal, called for the revival of all UMA structures and institutions on sound bases in order to consolidate Maghreban cooperation and partnership.

Tunisian secretary of state to the foreign minister, Taher Sioud, on his part called for updating the UMA accords and adapting them to the new requirements.

He also called for the adoption of new working mechanisms to speed up the union’s actions.

In his address before the opening session of the meeting, UMA secretary general, Mohamed Amamou, surveyed the UMA priority tasks, which include the setting up of a free trade area, the completion of economic and commercial integration, and the free movement of capital, goods and persons.

He also spoke of Maghreban complementarity in the fields of communication, education, scientific research and youth.

The follow-up committee which carried its works behind closed doors is discussing means of reviving the UMA institutions and activities. It will also set the schedule for the coming UMA meetings and prepare an agenda for a meeting of the five countries’ foreign ministers due later this year in Algiers. The council of foreign ministers, will prepare the 7th Maghreban summit.

The Maghreban delegations attending the follow-up committee meeting were received this Tuesday by the Algerian prime minister, Ismail Hamdani, and the Algerian foreign minister, Ahmed Attaf.

The meeting is to wind up this afternoon.