by Reuters and Israel Hayom Staff
Moroccan foreign minister accuses Iran and its Lebanese proxy Hezbollah of training and arming fighters for Polisario Front, a Western Sahara independence movement
Moroccan Foreign Minister Nasser BouritaPhoto: EPA
Morocco has severed diplomatic ties with Iran over Tehran's support for the Polisario Front, a Western Sahara independence movement, Morocco's foreign minister said on Tuesday.
Morocco has claimed Western Sahara since colonial power Spain left in 1975. Polisario fought a guerrilla war for independence for the Sahrawi people until a United Nations-backed cease-fire in 1991, monitored by U.N. peacekeepers. Western Sahara is now effectively 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 U.N.-mandated buffer zone between them.
Moroccan Foreign Minister Nasser Bourita accused Iran and its Lebanese proxy Hezbollah of training and arming Polisario fighters via the Iranian Embassy in neighboring Algeria.
"This month Hezbollah sent [surface-to-air] SAM9, SAM11 and Strela missiles to the Polisario with the connivance of Iran’s Embassy in Algiers," he told reporters.
There was no immediate Iranian reaction to the Moroccan move or accusation. Iran has backed Polisario in the past.
Hezbollah denied in a statement that it was training and arming Polisario and said Morocco had taken its decision under "American, Israeli and Saudi pressure."
Algeria hosts camps for people displaced by the conflict and Polisario members, but denies giving military aid to the group.
Bourita said he had just returned from Iran after informing it of Morocco's decision to sever relations. Morocco's ambassador to Iran has already returned home, and Iran's charge d'affaires will be expelled from Morocco on Tuesday, Bourita said.
Morocco also cut diplomatic ties with Iran in 2009 after accusing it of questioning Sunni rule in Bahrain, a Gulf Arab island with a Shiite majority.
Diplomatic relations were restored in 2014, but they were never strong, with Morocco enjoying close ties with Iran's regional rival, Sunni-ruled Saudi Arabia.
Reuters and Israel Hayom Staff
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