Morocco's prime minister is calling his main political rival in this week's elections a "liar" for claiming that state-funded associations are behind growing Islamic extremism among Moroccan youth.

In a sweeping interview Monday with The Associated Press, Abdelilah Benkirane, acknowledged the challenges of stopping radicalization and balancing the budget, and called for greater attention to women's issues.

Benkirane defended the record of his moderate Islamist Party of Justice and Development, which faces a tough challenge in Friday's parliamentary elections from the Party of Authenticity and Modernity.

He denied accusations by PAM's leader that state-accredited associations are behind youth radicalization.

Benkirane says moderates with a "tolerant and enlightened" understanding of Islam need to be encouraged.

Moroccan authorities dismantled a cell of women extremists Monday linked to the Islamic State group.