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Wednesday, 23 January, 2002, 22:15 GMT
Morocco's 'Red Prince' departs for US
Moulay Hicham photographed in his Rabat office
Hicham announced his intention to leave on Tuesday
Moulay Hicham, who broke royal ranks over his cousin King Mohammed VI's reform programme, has left the country for an indefinite period.

The prince - nicknamed the Red Prince in Morocco for his left-leaning, progressive views - said he had been harassed by the police and needed to put an end to an "unhealthy tension" with the royal family.


My departure is a political and patriotic gesture

Moulay Hicham
Shortly before flying out of the country, he said he was moving to the United States and would live close to New York.

"It is not an exile," he said in an interview conducted on Tuesday by the Associated Press at his Rabat office. "My departure is a political and patriotic gesture.

"I am leaving in the spirit of responsibility, to recharge my batteries and to orient myself toward new horizons," he said, adding that he had "numerous projects" planned.

Last year, the prince made a series of public statements criticising the slow pace of reforms which sparked an intense public debate, giving hope to progressives and drawing criticism from the political establishment.

King Mohammed VI
Expectations were high at Mohammed's accession
Claiming the country's dire situation had forced him to speak out, Hicham said the time had come to speed up reforms to avoid political unrest similar to that rocking neighbouring Algeria.

"None of our traditional institutions, neither parliament nor political parties and even the monarchy, have seriously begun the necessary task of rebuilding the political structures that our people deserve," he wrote in the French daily Le Monde last June.

However, more recently the prince has been involved in several scandals, including the attempted kidnapping of his chauffeur, which liberal commentators said was "politically-motivated".

Correspondents say Hicham, a nephew of the late King Hassan II who died in 1999, had aspirations for the position of king himself. The current issue of the magazine Jeune Afrique features Hicham on its front page, calling him "the man who wants to be king".

He told AP that he remained "very respectful and attached to (King Mohammed) personally" and to the whole royal family.

Asked if he planned to return to Morocco to attend the king's forthcoming marriage in the spring, he said: "If I am invited, I will go with the greatest pleasure."

See also:

25 Jul 01 | Africa
King launches charm offensive
08 May 01 | Africa
Morocco prison abuses 'rampant'
21 Nov 99 | From Our Own Correspondent
A new royal broom for Morocco
03 Jul 01 | Country profiles
Country profile: Morocco
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