Iran slams 'false' Morocco accusation of separatist arms delivery

Iran slams 'false' Morocco accusation of separatist arms delivery
Iran's foreign ministry denied allegations from Morocco that it was involved in a weapons delivery to separatists on Wednesday.

2 min read
02 May, 2018
The foreign ministry denied the accusations in a statement on Wednesday [Getty]
Iran denied accusations by Morocco that alleged it sent a weapons delivery to separatists in the North African country, after Rabat cut diplomatic ties with Tehran over the claims.

Iran's foreign ministry slammed the comments as “false” in a statement published on Wednesday, just a day after Morocco said it would close its embassy in Tehran and expel the Iranian ambassador from Rabat. 

"Remarks attributed to the foreign minister of Morocco about cooperation between an Iranian diplomat and the Polisario Front" in Western Sahara are “false”.

Morocco annexed Western Sahara in 1975 after colonial Spain left the disputed territory. The Polisario, the Spanish acronym for the separatist movement, represents the Sahrawi people that populate the region.

Polisario previously fought a guerilla war for independence until a UN-backed ceasefire took effect in 1991, with a promise for an independence referendum the following year.

Disagreements on voter rights have stalled the referendum since then.

On Tuesday, Morocco’s Foreign Minister Nasser Bourita said Iran and "Hizballah sent military officials to Polisario and provided the front with ... weapons and trained them on urban warfare.”

The Western Sahara region has effectively been split in two for years. A wall separates the Rabat-controlled area from territory held by Polisario, with a UN-mandated buffer zone located between the two regions. 

Tuesday's announcement is not the first time Morocco has cut diplomatic ties with Iran. The kingdom severed relations with the Islamic Republic in 2009, charging it with undermining ally Bahrain's Al Khalifa's ruling family.

Morocco restored ties with Iran in 2014. 

The North African state, which is led by a monarch, has close relations with Tehran's arch-rival Saudi Arabia. 

Hizballah blamed Morocco's decision on foreign "pressure". 

On Friday, the UN Security Council backed a US-drafted resolution that urges Morocco and the Polisario Front to prepare for talks on settling the decades-old conflict.

Western Sahara is home to phosphate reserves and is believed to have untapped offshore oil deposits.