Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Minister downplays demands
for change in nearby Morocco

At a meeting in Lisbon today, the foreign ministers of Portugal and its nearest Arab neighbour, Morocco, expressed concern about the revolutionary violence sweeping across North Africa.

Portugal's Luís Amado said the "extremely dangerous" situation in Arab countries such as Libya may be one of the most difficult for Europe since World War Two.

The people's demands in Libya were legitimate and the violence against protesters extremely worrying, said Morocco's Taieb Fassi-Fihri.

Their remarks came in a week when thousands of Moroccans took to the streets to demand constitutional reforms, including King Mohammed VI giving up some of his powers to a newly-elected government. The King still holds absolute authority.
"Morocco is extremely worried about the violence that we have seen in the last days. We are also worried about security in the region. This violence is inadmissible, particularly for the neighbouring countries," Fihri said.

He noted however that in his own country there had been no security crackdown against protesters. "Protest rallies are part of daily life. The ones in recent days have been normal rallies. There is no repression from the government and the protests have been peaceful.”

He said Morocco does not have the degree of tension exhibited in other Arab nations. But last weekend thousands of Moroccans turned out to demand economic, social and political improvements. Five people died in scattered violence.

'Maddie is in America'
claims have led nowhere

Claims by Algarve nightclub doorman and amateur sleuth Macelino Jorge Italiano that he knows who abducted Madeleine McCann and that she may have been taken to the United States have thrown no new light on the case.

Private investigators for Drs Kate and Gerry McCann were talking with Italiano and his lawyer in Huelva this week but would only say that their inquiries were “continuing.”

That no startling new evidence has been announced will not come as any surprise to most of those who have been following the case. Italiano's story was widely dismissed as soon as it was reported. It looks like ending up as yet another footnote in the litany of false 'leads' and spurious 'sightings' since Madeleine 'disappeared' in May 2007.

Still, the claims were so brazen they had to be checked out. There were grounds for thinking there may have been substance to his assertions. The lawyer who accompanied him to hand over his 'dossier' to the Spanish police in Huelva said he sounded plausible. So did a journalist who interviewed him.

This impression was strengthened by the fact that he was jeopardising himself by going to the police, but did not appear to be doing so for money or fame. He expressed determination to expose a purported Algarve paedophile ring with international connections. So far, however, no solid evidence has emerged that he has any real knowledge of what happened to Madeleine.

Sources say the Spanish police have shown little interest in his dossier. The Portuguese police have not questioned him. Italiano says he did not go to the Portuguese police because he distrusts them. There is speculation that personal issues may be at the root of Italiano's allegations.

An internet comment from George Laird of the Campaign for Human Rights at Glasgow University sums up the feelings of many about Italiano's story: “This is complete tripe. He should be arrested for wasting police time.”

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