France's Hollande visits Morocco after torture row

French President Francois Hollande speaks to journalists upon his arrival at Ibn Battouta airport in Boukhalef, 10km south of Tangier, on September 19, 2015 (AFP Photo/Fadel Senna)

Tangiers (Morocco) (AFP) - French President Francois Hollande arrived in Morocco Saturday on an official visit that takes place against a backdrop of controversy over torture lawsuits in Paris against the kingdom's intelligence chief.

Hollande, accompanied by five ministers and a delegation of business leaders, was met on the tarmac in Tangiers by King Mohammed VI at the start of the two-day visit.

"I want France and Morocco to enter a new phase of partnership," Hollande said.

"We have a common will to act in Africa and also to fight against terrorism, which remains our top priority," he said after receiving military honours and a traditional offering of dates and milk.

He was to hold a series of meetings at the palace, attend the signing of a bilateral agreement on the training of imams and inaugurate with the king a service centre for trains of the future Tangiers-Casablanca high-speed line.

The first train for the rail link was delivered by the French group Alstom in June.

Human rights groups are concerned Hollande might use the visit to bestow France's top honour, the Legion d'Honneur, on Abdellatif Hammouchi, the head of Morocco's domestic intelligence agency.

In February, French Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve announced that Paris would decorate Hammouchi with the award for his role in the fight against terrorism.

Hollande's aides, however, have said there is no plan to award the Legion d'Honneur to Hammouchi during the visit.

Morocco suspended all judicial cooperation with Paris between February 2014 and January 2015 after a French judge summoned Hammouchi over torture complaints filed against him in Paris.

The diplomatic row ended in February when Hollande received Mohammed VI at the Elysee Palace after the signing of a new judicial agreement between the two countries.