Morocco king appoints new second-in-command (

Morocco king appoints new second-in-command

Moroccos King Mohammed VI on Saturday appointed a new secondincommand of the armed forces, a release from the royal palace said, amid tensions with neighbour Algeria over Western Sahara.

Under the North African countrys constitution, the king himself commands the armed forces.

His new number two is Inspector General Mohammed Berid who replaces General Belkhir El Farouk, the announcement carried by the official MAP news agency said.

No reason for the change was given, but at the handover, Farouk, 75, appeared in a wheelchair.

His successor is around seven years younger and was in charge of the zone that includes disputed Western Sahara.

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According to the website Global Firepower, Morocco has about 310,000 regular soldiers and 150,000 reservists.

Saturdays change comes during months of heightened tensions with Algeria after the collapse of a decadesold ceasefire in Western Sahara and Moroccos normalisation of ties with Israel in late 2020.

The Algiersbacked Polisario Front seeks independence for the Western Sahara which Rabat says is Moroccan territory.

Antagonism between the two Maghreb states is also feeding a regional arms race.

The United States has just approved the sale of 18 HIMARS precision rocket systems to Morocco, while the Algerian armed forces rely mainly on equipmentfromRussia.

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