Page last updated at 18:21 GMT, Sunday, 7 September 2008 19:21 UK

Rice holds terror talks in Rabat

Condoleezza Rice and Moroccan foreign affairs minister Taieb Fassi Fihri  in Rabat
Ms Rice wants improved counter-terrorism efforts in North Africa

US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said she discussed terrorism and political reform in North Africa during talks with officials in Morocco.

She also said Morocco's long-running struggle with the Polisario Front insurgents in Western Sahara should be resolved quickly.

The Polisario Front wants independence while Morocco has proposed autonomy.

The Moroccan capital Rabat was her final stop in a North Africa tour that included a historic visit to Libya.

Ms Rice also stopped in Tunisia and Algeria.

"It is quite clear that there are problems of terrorism and need for counter-terrorism co-operation," between North African states and with the US, she said at a news conference after meeting Moroccan Foreign Minister Taieb Fassi-Fihri.

She also said they had discussed "the process of reform" in Morocco and the other countries she had visited.

Strained relations

Morocco says it has broken up more than 30 cells sending fighters to Iraq in the last five years, and the US and North African governments believe there is a growing threat from religious extremists in the region.

In neighbouring Algeria, about 60 people were killed in several attacks which took place within days of each other in August.

Morocco sees the disputed Western Sahara as its southern provinces while others see it as an independent state under Moroccan occupation.

The impasse has strained relations between Morocco and Algeria, which supports the Polisario Front.

Ms Rice said the US supports the UN effort to mediate a solution.

Condoleezza Rice meeting Libya's Muammar Gaddafi
In Tripoli, Ms Rice said US-Libya relations were at a new phase

Resolving the conflict would allow Algeria and Morocco to improve co-operation on security and counter-terrorism, she said.

Morocco is a relatively liberal Muslim kingdom with a long history of good relations with the US.

The US sees the country as a stable friend in a difficult region, and a partner in the fight against Islamic extremism, says the BBC's James Copnall in Rabat.

Ms Rice started her tour of North Africa with a visit to Libya, the first by an American secretary of state for more than 50 years.

While in Libya, she said the two countries were working on a trade and investment framework to allow US companies to invest more, especially in Libya's oil industry.

Libya was on the US state department list of sponsors of terrorism until 2003, when it abandoned weapons of mass destruction and renounced terrorism.

Earlier this month, Libya agreed to pay compensation to families of the victims of the Lockerbie aircraft bombing, for which it formally accepted responsibility in the same year.

Morocco 'breaks terror network'
29 Aug 08 |  Africa
Country profile: Morocco
04 Apr 08 |  Country profiles
US Libya relations in 'new phase'
06 Sep 08 |  Middle East

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