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FILE PHOTO: Morocco's King Mohammed VI arrives for a lunch at the Elysee Palace as part of the One Planet Summit in Paris, France, December 12, 2017. REUTERS/Philippe Wojazer

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RABAT (Reuters) - Morocco's King Mohammed VI called on Sunday on the government to do more to address the country's social and economic problems, as the North African country struggles with social disparities.

He delivered the speech from the northwestern Rif region in the city of Al Hoceima where popular protests over poverty and neglect erupted in 2016 after a fishmonger was crushed to death inside a rubbish truck while trying to recover fish confiscated by police.

The speech also came almost a month after 53 Rif activists including protest leader Nasser Zefzafi were sentenced to up to 20 years in jail on charges of undermining state security and attacking law enforcement members.

Billions of Moroccan dirhams allocated to social development plans could better yield results had there been proper coordination and better targeting of those in need, the king said.

"I attach special importance to and take a keen interest in social affairs – both as a King and as a person," he said.

Morocco is struggling to attract investments to curb rising unemployment as the economy has been hit by rising oil prices.

(Reporting by Ahmed ElJechtimi; Editing by Ulf Laessing)

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Reuters