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Sorcery, spirits and sacrifice at Morocco Sufi festival

Sorcery, plate-smashing and animal sacrifice are not often associated with Sufi festivals, but they all feature at a popular annual pilgrimage to a Moroccan shrine linked to the "queen of the genies". In the town's main square, to a chorus of trilling pipes and banging drums, spectators press around a cluster of believers, who sway to the hypnotic rhythms in a trance-like state, sometimes leaping up and down in ecstasy, sometimes cutting themselves on the scalp with sharp tools.

HRW urges UN to give W. Sahara force rights mandate

Human Rights Watch on Wednesday called on the UN Security Council to task the peacekeeping force in the disputed Western Sahara with rights monitoring, a proposal categorically rejected by Morocco. Diplomatic sources say the United States wants the mandate of the UN force, known as MINURSO, extended to investigating human rights abuses when it comes up for renewal before the 15-nation UN Security Council at the end of April.

EU starts push for new trade pacts with North Africa

By Ethan Bilby BRUSSELS, March 1 (Reuters) - The European Union began talks with Morocco on a free-trade deal on Friday, the EU's first in a planned series aimed at deepening trade ties with North African nations two years after a wave of Arab uprisings. "Just announced the launch of negotiations for a free-trade agreement with Morocco," European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso said on his Twitter feed from Rabat.
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