Morocco protests to Spain over army moves report

RABAT Jan 30 (Reuters) – Morocco lodged a protest with the Spanish government on Sunday, saying a state-owned television channel in Spain had spread false information by reporting deployment of Moroccan army units to quell potential riots.

Unprecedented popular revolts in Tunisia and Egypt have raised concerns over the risk of contagion to other Arab states, many of which share the same mix of social, political and economic woes that have sparked the unrest.

Morocco’s foreign affairs and interior ministers spoke on Sunday with their Spanish counterparts to express “Morocco’s indignation and to draw Spanish authorities’ attention to the perils linked to such repetitive media distortions”, government spokesman Khalid Naciri told reporters.

Earlier this week, rating agencies Fitch and Standard & Poor’s cited Morocco as the least likely country in the region to be affected by the type of political unrest that led to the ousting of Tunisia’s president Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali. [ID:nLDE70Q1H5]

“The government has felt extremely unhappy about the false information that was broadcast by Spanish public television, namely the public Canal 24 Horas and other media outlets,” Naciri said.

The two countries had a brief and bloodless military confrontation in 2002 over a disputed islet known to Spaniards as Perejil, and as Laila to Moroccans.

Maintaining healthy ties between Morocco and Spain is crucial for a European Union keen for Rabat’s help in stemming the flows of illegal migrants from Africa, as well as in countering drug smuggling and radical Islamists.

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