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Moroccan king pledges reforms as neighbors battle uprisings

By the CNN Wire Staff
King Mohamed VI (pictured in 2009) said reforms would include a prime minister from the party that wins the most seats.
King Mohamed VI (pictured in 2009) said reforms would include a prime minister from the party that wins the most seats.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • NEW: U.S. "welcomes" reforms, calls it a "moment of profound change"
  • King Mohamed VI says reforms would include an elected prime minister
  • Reforms will also promote human rights and gender equality, he says
  • Announcement comes after protests last month
RELATED TOPICS
  • Morocco

(CNN) -- The Moroccan king has pledged sweeping constitutional reforms as neighboring nations face violent uprisings demanding more democracy.

In a rare television appearance on Wednesday, King Mohamed VI said the reforms would include a prime minister elected from the party that wins the most seats in parliament.

The prime minister will "be the head of an effective executive branch, who is fully responsible for government, civil service and the implementation of the government's agenda," the king said.

Reforms will also promote human rights and gender equality, and improve the economic, social and cultural aspects, according to the king.

He highlighted seven key elements of his constitutional amendments. They include expanded collective and individual freedoms, an elevated judiciary, a stronger emphasis on democracy and a parliament drawn from free and fair elections.

The U.S. government "welcomes" the "constitutional, judicial and political reforms" announced by the king, State Department spokesman Mark Toner said in a statement.

"This is a moment of profound change in the region and under the leadership of King Mohamed VI, Morocco has made significant achievements in the economic, social and political realms," said Toner, adding that the U.S. is "ready to work with the government and the people of Morocco to realize their democratic aspirations."

The king's announcement came after thousands of Moroccans took to the streets last month to demand reform.

At least five charred bodies were found in a bank that burned down during the protests in al Hoceima in northern Morocco, state-run news agency reported, citing the interior minister.

Protests calling for new leadership have swept across the region, leading to the toppling of decades-long leaders in Egypt and Tunisia.

King Mohamed VI has ruled the north African nation for 12 years.

Journalist Martin Jay contributed to this report from Casablanca

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