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Council on Foreign Relations Daily News Brief
April 1, 2013

Top of the Agenda

Top of the Agenda: Thousands March Against Moroccan Government

Thousands marched through the Moroccan capital of Rabat on Sunday to protest (AFP) against unemployment and high costs of living ahead of plans by the Islamist-led government of Prime Minister Abdelilah Benkirane to push for social and economic reforms. Morocco, which has around 30 percent youth unemployment, is facing slower growth with the budget deficit (al-Bawaba) reaching over 6 percent of GDP in 2011. Protestors pointed specifically to government plans to reform labor union laws, including docking the pay of strikers and other measures the government says would increase transparency in finances.


"As the movement shrinks to a core of like-minded supporters, it is able to formulate increasingly focused and antagonistic attitudes toward the 'Makhzen,' a term that refers to the presumptive 'Deep State,' centered around the King and his entourage, that controls the ruling apparatus beyond the elected government," writes Mohamed El Dahshan for Foreign Policy.

"Until now the economy has weathered Europe's doldrums remarkably well. But the previous government drained foreign reserves into salary and subsidy increases, so there is little left to give. The return of thousands of jobless workers from depressed Europe and lawless Libya has further shrunk the cushion," writes The Economist.

"A crisis like no other has struck us. It has reached its height with the arrival of the relatively new government headed by Abdelilah Benkirane. Nevertheless, it would be unfair, and even dishonest, to completely blame Benkirane for this situation, as he has inherited, and not formed, the government," writes Fahd Iraqi for al-Monitor.



Two Die in China From New Strain of Bird Flu

Two men in Shanghai died after contracting a lesser-known strain of bird flu (SCMP), marking the first reported human cases of infection. A woman in Anhui province is also critically ill from the disease, which experts say appears more deadly than other strains of the H7 virus.

SOUTH KOREA: South Korea's free trade agreement (Yonhap)with Turkey, which removes import tariffs on nearly all products within the next ten years, will go into effect in May.



Karzai Holds Talks in Qatar

Afghan President Hamid Karzai held talks with Qatari leaders on Sunday in a bid to explore the possibility of talks with Taliban insurgents (Reuters) on ending Afghanistan's war. The visit comes after years of stalled discussions between the United States, Pakistan and the Taliban.

PAKISTAN: A forty-year-old Pakistani housewife became the first woman to run for parliament (AP) from Bajur, a northwest tribal region that is highly conservative and a haven for Islamist militants.



Hamas to Elect New Political Office Chief

Hamas leaders are meeting in Cairo on Monday to select a new political office chief (al-Arabiya) in an election that is held every four years. The prime minister of the Palestinian government in Gaza, Ismail Haniya, is expected to win.

This CFR Backgrounder traces the roots and operations of Hamas.



CAR Leader Appoints Interim Government

Michel Djotodia, the rebel leader who declared himself president of the Central African Republic, announced a caretaker government (BBC) in which he controls several ministries. Djotodia, who ousted President Francois Bozize in a coup, said he will run the country until elections in 2016.

MALI: A suicide bomb (RFI) in Timbuktu killed three Islamist fighters and wounded five Malian troops on Sunday. The attack marks the second suicide bombing in the city's history.



Cyprus Bailout Threatens Germany-Russia Relations

The Cyprus bailout, which saw wealthy Russians lose much of their cash deposits, has chilled relations between Moscow and Berlin (WashPost). Russia's ambassador to Berlin was called in for a stern conversation on Tuesday with German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle.

CFR's Robert Kahn discusses the future of Cyprus' banks in this blog post.

ITALY: Italian President Giorgio Napolitano renewed a push to form a government from the country's split parliament by drafting advisers (Bloomberg) from two of the top three political groups.



Cameron, Rajoy to Meet

UK Prime Minister David Cameron is reportedly due to meet Spanish counterpart Mariano Rajoy in Madrid during the second week of April to discuss the eurozone crisis. Spain's Popular Party has repeatedly called for renewed bilateral negotiations with the UK over Gibraltar (MercoPress).

CHILE: Thousands of Chilean students clashed with police in the capital of Santiago during a protest calling for education reforms (BBC), marking the first demonstration of 2013.



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