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Friday, October 22, 1999 Published at 02:37 GMT 03:37 UK

World: Africa

Morocco continues liberal moves

The new king has made many changes since his father's death

By Nick Pelham in Rabat

The Moroccan authorities have lifted the television ban on the country's leading satirist, Ahmed Sanoussi.

He has been banned from public performances for 13 years and the move is the latest sign of the political openness triggered by the succession of Mohammed VI after the death of his father, Hassan II, in July.

In typical Moroccan fashion, the lifting of the ban happened in the most discreet of ways - an appearance in a television commercial for a campaign against poverty.

But that was enough to lift the muzzle on the popular comedian that international human rights organisations have called the most censured artist in Morocco.

Several terms in prison

Ahmed Sanoussi, better known to Moroccans as Bziz, disappeared from the public eye in 1986 after he parodied the country's long-standing Interior Minister, Driss Basri.

He had also accused the authorities of rigging elections.

The interior ministry banning order said Mr Sanoussi posed a threat to public order and since then he has served several terms in prison.

Only this month the authorities cancelled a show in which he was due to perform.

Mr Sanoussi's return to the small screen marks another dent in the interior ministry's extensive powers under Morocco's new King Mohammed VI.

In the three months since Mohammed ascended the throne, the country's most prominent political exiles have been allowed home and the interior ministry has been stripped of its intelligence network, the DST, and of sole responsibility for the disputed Western Sahara.

So far it seems that Mohammed VI is steering Morocco, once one of the Arab world's most repressive states, on an apparently unchallenged course of political liberalisation.

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