Libya and Morocco - nods to the center

It now appears that the treaty signed by Libya and Morocco is a tactical move on both nations' part, from which each side hopes to benefit. Morocco's principal aim evidently is to try to neutralize Algeria in the struggle over control of the disputed Western Sahara. Both Algeria and Libya have been financing the Polisario guerrillas, who had been fighting Moroccan forces in the Western Sahara.

By signing an accord with Libya, King Hassan of Morocco hopes to weaken the Polisario - and Algeria's case for backing them - by removing Libya as a Polisario backer.

Morocco itself may feel reinforced in the Arab world now that it has struck an alliance with another Arab nation.

In addition, Morocco probably is hopeful of receiving Libyan financial help, though that may be unlikely.

Libya's prime purpose in reaching the agreement is to try, once again, to end its isolation in the Arab world.

In some measure, Libya and Morocco may have struck their pact out of concern for agreements of recent years among Algeria, Tunisia, and Mauritania.

This is the alliance of a regional conservative, King Hassan, with a radical, Col. Muammar Qaddafi. To the extent that the cooperation between them lasts, both are edging a millimeter to the center. Moving Qaddafi toward moderation, however short a distance, is to the good.

There is no telling how long this agreement will hold. It is the sixth Libyan effort to link up with a nearby nation, and the previous five have been aborted.

It does not now appear that the accord represents a fundamental strategic shift for Morocco, despite earlier concerns.

King Hassan has assured the United States that the accord does not change his country's strong pro-Western orientation. Washington, in guarded reaction, says it has no reason to doubt this reassurance.

Future Moroccan support of the US is important: In the event of emergency, US forces could find it essential to be permitted - as they now are - to use Moroccan bases for transport purposes.

It is unlikely that the foreign policy of Morocco, with its 22 million people and long pro-Western orientation, will be substantially affected by the alliance with Libya, with its 3 million people and outlaw reputation. Yet the agreement should be watched closely to see whether the attitudes of the two nations, especially Morocco, do change significantly.

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