Source:   Reuter April 11,1997

Morocco arrests 18,000 drug traffickers in 1996

  RABAT, April 11 (Reuter)  Moroccco seized 103 tonnes of cannabis bound for
Europe in 1996 and arrested more than 18,000 drug traffickers, including 342
foreigners, the official MAP news agency said on Friday. 
    Interior Minister Driss Basri, who was addressing a meeting of Western
Mediterranean interior ministers in Paris, was quoted by MAP as saying: ``The
nationwide campaign against drug trafficking launched by Morocco in 1996 led
to the seizure of 103 tonnes of cannabis and 91 kg (200 lbs) of cocaine.'' 
    The drugs were destined for the European market, MAP said. 
    Security forces also arrested 18,794 people involved in drug smuggling,
including 342 foreigners, most of them Europeans, MAP quoted Basri as saying.

    The meeting was attended by ministers of Algeria, Spain, France, Italy,
Portugal, Tunisia and Morocco, the agency said. 
    ``It is an occasion today, to take measures to overcome the obstacles
which hamper an efficient multilateral cooperation to combat the drug
trafficking, organised crime and clandestine immigration networks in our
region,'' Basri told the meeting. 
    The Moroccan minister is expected to hold a news conference in Paris on
the issue on Friday, officials said. 
    Earlier, Prime Minister Abdellatif Filali announced a government plan to
invest 1.5 billion dirhams ($160 million) in 1997/98 to upgrade
infrastructure in the Moroccan northern provinces to eradicate drug
trafficking and halt clandestine immigration to Europe. 
    Filali said, the government's long term plan, called ``the longlasting
integrated development programme for the northern provinces,'' requires a
total investment of 15.4 billion dirhams. 
    The authorities aim to substitute cannabis cultivation with fruit and
other crops to improve the country's image abroad and attract foreign
investments to the region.