Spain's King Juan Carlos on Wednesday encouraged the Moroccan government to continue with its reforms and defended the push for educational cooperation between Madrid and Rabat as a "promising aspect" of the bilateral "strategic partnership.

On the third day of his official visit to the North African country at the invitation of King Mohammed VI, the Spanish monarch welcomed at the Guest Palace in Rabat Moroccan Premier Abdelilah Benkiran in the presence of Spain's foreign minister, Jose Manuel Garcia-Margallo.

Juan Carlos encouraged Benkiran to "keep advancing on the reforms undertaken in the country," said sources with the Spanish Royal Palace.

Garcia-Margallo was not sparing in his praise for Morocco for having chosen "the good road" to push for a transition to democracy, which he said was similar to what occurred in Spain starting in 1975, compared to other Arab nations that are mired in revolutionary undertakings or bogged down in conflict.

After his meeting with the Moroccan prime minister, the Spanish monarch met with Spanish and Moroccan university deans on the palace patio.

In his speech before the assembled educators, Juan Carlos praised the willingness of both Spain and Morocco to take "a qualitative leap" in cooperation in the area of education and research.

The Spanish king characterized this first meeting of top university officials from the two nations as "a clear sign that both nations have achieved a solid maturity in their relations" with the objective of creating a Spanish-Moroccan university network "that will transform itself into a real reference point for cooperation between our two regions."

The visiting monarch will conclude his third day in Morocco with a reception at the Spanish Embassy for representatives of Spanish institutions in the North African country. EFE