Thousands demand change in Morocco

Rabat, Feb 20 (AFP) Several thousand people rallied inMoroccan cities today demanding political reform and limits onthe powers of the king, the latest protests demanding changeto have rocked the region.

Over 2,000 people took to the streets of the capitalRabat, 4,000 according to the organisers, shouting: "Thepeople want change."

In Casablanca, the North African nation''s biggestcity, over 1,000 people came out demanding: "Freedom, dignity,justice," an AFP correspondent reported.

The demonstrations were peaceful as of midday.

"I want a Morocco that''s more fair and with lesscorruption," said a student demonstrator in Casablanca whoasked not to be named.

"We''ve got nothing against the king, but we want morejustice and work," said another student who gave his name asBrahim.

Thousands of young Moroccans have joined the"February 20" movement on the social networking site Facebook,calling for peaceful demonstrations demanding a newconstitution limiting the king''s powers and more socialjustice.

The call has similar origins to the so-called"Facebook revolutions" that toppled decades-old regimes inTunisia and Egypt and sparked deadly protests in Bahrain,Yemen, Algeria and Morocco.

Ahead of the protest, Morocco promised to inject1.4 billion euros in subsidies to soften price hikes forstaples -- a key factor among others including rampantunemployment behind the spreading unrest in the Arab world.

That came despite an earlier reassurance thatMorocco was unlikely to see Tunisia or Egypt-style unrest dueto ongoing reforms by King Mohammed VI who has ruled thecountry for over a decade.

Human rights and civil groups as well asindependent journalists joined the movement, calling for theadoption of a democratic constitution.

However on Saturday one of the protests''organisers, Rachid Antid, told AFP he was pulling out ofSunday''s rally due to the inclusion of Islamist and far-leftgroups with which they share "ideological differences."

The youth wing of banned Islamist group Justice andCharity, believed to be Morocco''s biggest opposition forcecalled for a peaceful rally.

Others, including the pro-regime Istiqlal and theIslamist opposition Justice and Development, openly rejectedthe demonstration. (AFP)

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