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Morocco to sever ties with Iran over weapons to separatists

  • 1 May 2018

The move comes as Morocco accuses Iran of supplying weapons to the separatist Polisario Front that is fighting for the independence of the Western Sahara.

Pro-independence Polisario Front supporter looks on during a military parade as a Western Sahara flag flies in the breeze, in the village of Tifariti in this file picture. Now Iranian support for the movement has resulted in Morocco cutting ties with Iran. ( AP )

Morocco will sever diplomatic ties with Iran over Tehran’s support for the Polisario Front, a Western Sahara independence movement, the Moroccan foreign minister said on Tuesday.

Morocco claimed the Western Sahara after colonial Spain left, but Polisario fought a guerrilla war for independence for the Sahrawi people until a UN-backed ceasefire.

Morocco will close its embassy in Tehran and will expel the Iranian ambassador in Rabat, Foreign Minister Nasser Bourita told reporters.

He said that Iran and its Lebanese Shia ally, Hezbollah, were supporting Polisario by training and arming its fighters, via the Iranian embassy in Algeria.

“Hezbollah sent military officials to Polisario and provided the front with ... weapons and trained them on urban warfare,” Bourita said.

Past backing

Algeria, Morocco’s neighbour, hosts camps of displaced from the conflict region and Polisario members. It was not immediately possible to get Iranian reaction to the Moroccan accusation. Iran has backed Polisario in the past.

The Western Sahara region has effectively been split by an earthen wall separating an area controlled by Morocco that it claims as its southern provinces and territory controlled by the Polisario, with a UN-mandated buffer zone between them.

In 2009, Morocco cut diplomatic links with Iran, accusing it of questioning the Sunni rule of Bahrain, a Gulf Arab island that has a Shia majority. Ties were gradually restored around 2014, but they were never strong, with Rabat backing Tehran’s arch-rival, Saudi Arabia.

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