Morocco King Seeks Gov't Shake-Up

Morocco King Seeks Gov't Shake-Up

RABAT, Morocco (AP) -- Morocco's king is calling for a government reshuffle, seeking "new blood" and saying the country's development policy isn't doing enough to meet citizens' needs.

In a speech Monday night marking his 20 years on the throne, King Mohammed VI reproached the Islamist-led government and tasked Prime Minister Saad-Eddine El Othmani with proposing new government candidates in the fall.

The king said he wants "people with a different mentality and officials who are capable of raising performance levels."

Morocco recently launched one of the world's biggest solar plants and one of the fastest trains in Africa, but poverty rates remain high and social frustration has led to two major protest movements in the past three years.

The 55-year-old ruler wants a committee to oversee the government's reforms in such sectors as investment, education and health, judging the current development model "inadequate."

Foreign Minister Nasser Bourita told The Associated Press "the committee would make sure that all Moroccans can benefit from development projects." He said the next step for Morocco "requires freshness of skills."

The king also pardoned 4,764 prisoners, according to Justice Ministry statement. Such pardons are a tradition around the annual Throne Day marking the anniversary of the king's accession to power.

In foreign affairs, the king said Morocco is reaching out toward neighboring Algeria. Their shared border has been closed since 1994 over Western Sahara, a former Spanish colony annexed by Morocco in 1975 and claimed by the Algerian-backed Polisario Front after a long conflict.

He reiterated Morocco's commitment to the U.N. political process for finding solutions to Western Sahara conflict.