Reuters International

RABAT (Reuters) - Morocco summoned the U.S. ambassador in Rabat to protest against the State Department's annual report on human rights in the North African kingdom, the foreign ministry said on Wednesday.

The Rabat government said in a statement that the report was "outrageous" and contained "inventions and lies" on the human rights situation in Morocco.

It was a rare spat between the United States and Morocco, an ally of the West against Islamist militancy but facing accusations from groups such as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch that it forcibly represses dissent.

The foreign ministry said it objected to the State Department's description of the reasons for the arrests of three activists, citing "manipulation and factual errors" in the report.

One of the cases related to activist Wafae Charaf who the State Department said was jailed for "falsely" reporting being abducted and tortured by unknown persons, citing Amnesty International information. The foreign ministry said she was jailed for "false accusations", "presentation of false evidence about an imaginary crime" and "insulting the judicial police".

The U.S. Embassy, in a statement sent to Reuters, said that despite criticism in the report, Washington still looked forward to "continue(d) close cooperation with the Ministry of Interior on our shared security and human rights interests".

The 40-page State Department document cited a variety of human rights problems in Morocco including reports of detainees being tortured.

It said Moroccan authorities had abridged civil liberties by infringing on freedom of speech and press, including by harassing and arresting print and Internet journalists for reporting and commenting on issues sensitive to the government.

(Reporting by Aziz El Yaakoubi; Editing by Mark Heinrich)

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