Iran fires back after Morocco cuts ties

Iran denies it was involved in a weapons delivery to the Polisario Front movement seeking independence for Western Sahara.

Ben Ariel,

Flag of Morocco
Flag of Morocco
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Iran on Wednesday denied that it was involved in a weapons delivery to the Polisario Front movement seeking independence for Western Sahara, a day after Morocco cut diplomatic ties with Tehran over the allegations, AFP reported.

Morocco, which enjoy close relations with Iran's regional rival Saudi Arabia, on Tuesday accused Tehran of using its Lebanese terrorist ally Hezbollah to deliver weapons to the Polisario Front.

Tehran hit back on Wednesday, accusing Morocco of using the allegations as a "pretext" to break off diplomatic ties.

"Remarks attributed to the foreign minister of Morocco about cooperation between an Iranian diplomat and the Polisario Front" in Western Sahara are "false", Iran's foreign ministry said in a statement quoted by AFP.

The Islamic Republic respects the "sovereignty and security" of countries with which it has diplomatic relations, and follows a policy of "non-interference in (their) internal affairs", it added.

Moroccan Foreign Minister Nasser Bourita said on Tuesday that "a first shipment of weapons was recently" sent to the Algerian-backed Polisario Front via an "element" at the Iranian embassy in Algiers.

Bourita said his country had "irrefutable proof" of Hezbollah's involvement and said ties were being cut with Tehran in response to Iran "allying itself with" the Polisario.

Saudi Arabia on Wednesday expressed support for Rabat's decision and said it "strongly condemns the Iranian interference in Morocco's internal affairs".

The United Arab Emirates and Bahrain, staunch allies of Saudi Arabia, also expressed backing for the Moroccan move.

Hezbollah rejected Rabat's accusations and blamed the decision on foreign "pressure", according to AFP.

Morocco had previously cut diplomatic links with Iran in 2009, when it accused the Islamic Republic it of questioning the Sunni rule of Bahrain, noted Reuters. Ties were gradually restored around 2014, but they were never strong, with Rabat backing Tehran’s arch-rival, Saudi Arabia.

Iran and Saudi Arabia are regional rivals which back opposing sides in countries such as Syria, where the Iranian regime supports President Bashar Al-Assad while the Saudis back the rebels trying to oust him.

Saudi Arabia has repeatedly called on Iran to stop its “meddling” in the affairs of the kingdom's neighbors.

Iran has fired back, accusing Saudi Arabia of trying to “drag the entire region into confrontation”.

The Polisario and Morocco fought for control of Western Sahara from 1975 to 1991, with Rabat taking over the desert territory before a UN-brokered ceasefire in the former Spanish colony.

Rabat considers Western Sahara an integral part of Morocco and proposes autonomy for the territory, but the Polisario Front insists on a UN referendum on independence.




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