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Morocco's location and resources led to early competition among European powers in Africa, beginning with successful Portuguese efforts to control the Atlantic coast in the 15th century. France showed a strong interest in Morocco as early as 1830. Following recognition by the United Kingdom in 1904 of France's "sphere of influence" in Morocco, the Algeciras Conference (1906) formalized France's "special position" and entrusted policing of Morocco to France and Spain jointly. The Treaty of Fez[?] (signed on March 30, 1912) made Morocco a protectorate of France. By the same treaty, Spain assumed the role of protecting power over the northern and southern (Saharan) zones.
Nationalist political parties, which subsequently arose under the French protectorate, based their arguments for Moroccan independence on such World War II declarations as the Atlantic Charter (a joint U.S.-British statement that set forth, among other things, the right of all people to choose the form of government under which they live). A manifesto of the Istiglal (Independence) Party[?] in 1944 was one of the earliest public demands for independence. That party subsequently provided most of the leadership for the nationalist movement.
France's exile of the highly respected Sultan Mohammed V in 1953 and his replacement by the unpopular Mohammed Ben Aarafa[?], whose reign was perceived as illegitimate, sparked active opposition to the French protectorate. France allowed Mohammed V to return in 1955, and the negotiations that led to Moroccan independence began the following year.
The Kingdom of Morocco recovered its political independence from France on March 2, 1956 and on April 7 of that year France officially relinquished its protectorate in Morocco. Through agreements with Spain in 1956 and 1958, Moroccan control over certain Spanish-ruled areas was restored. The internationalized city of Tangier[?] was reintegrated with the signing of the Tangier Protocol[?] on October 29, 1956. Hassan II[?] became King of Morocco on March 3, 1961. The Spanish enclave of Ifni in the south became part of Morocco in 1969. Spain, however, retains control over the small enclaves of Ceuta and Melilla in the north.
Morocco virtually annexed Western Sahara during the late 1970s, but final resolution on the status of the territory remains unresolved. Gradual political reforms in the 1990s resulted in the establishment of a bicameral legislature in 1997.
Morocco's armed conflicts with other Arab and Muslim nations is also described in the entry on the Middle_East_conflict.
See also: Morocco