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Friday, 22 March, 2002, 04:28 GMT
King of Morocco weds
The King and his bride with their families
Only family attended the private religious ceremony
King Mohammed VI of Morocco has married a 24-year-old computer engineer in a break with tradition that is seen as a step towards modernising the country.

It is the first time in Morocco that a royal wedding has been publicised, with the bride named and her photographs appearing in the media.


The royal palace was delighted by the conclusion of the wedding of King Mohammed to the chaste pearl, Lalla (Lady) Salma

Royal palace statement
The BBC's Stephanie Irvine in Rabat says Salma Bennani, the daughter of a university professor, is expected to have a high profile and to encourage women to take a more prominent role in public life.

The marriage is being presented by the royal palace as a sign of its new, open and modern outlook.

The private ceremony, held in Rabat's royal palace on Thursday, is to be followed by three days of public festivities in the southern city of Marrakech next month, parts of which will be televised.

A palace statement issued by the official MAP news agency said: "The royal palace was delighted by the conclusion of the wedding of King Mohammed to the chaste pearl, Lalla (Lady) Salma, in conformity with divine teachings and the Prophet's tradition."

The king's new bride will not take the title of queen but will be known as royal highness.

Secret marriages

In the past, royal marriages were kept secret. No one knew the late King Hassan was married until the birth of his first child, and his wife, Latifa, was rarely seen in public.

Salma Bennani
Salma could encourage women to play a more public role
In contrast, Moroccans got their first public glimpse of 36-year-old King Mohammed's bride on Thursday with her first official photograph featured in many newspapers.

The main celebration will take place in Marrakech in three weeks' time.

The decision to televise parts of the celebrations is another break with tradition.

The BBC correspondent says King Mohammed has done much to reform the country in his three-year reign.

He has released thousands of political prisoners and reduced the power of the interior ministry.

Parliamentary elections due later this year promise to be the freest that Morocco has ever had.

But the king has yet to implement real constitutional change.

It is still he and his advisers who make all the key decisions in the country.

See also:

07 Mar 02 | Country profiles
Country profile: Morocco
18 Mar 02 | Business
Morocco seeks tourism revival
25 Jul 01 | Africa
King launches charm offensive
21 Nov 99 | From Our Own Correspondent
A new royal broom for Morocco
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