Saturday, March 07, 2009

Morocco cuts diplomatic ties with Iran.

Morocco and Iran have had  a rocky relationship since the Iranian revolution in 1979. The two only normalised relations in the late 1990s and now, in a reversal, Morocco on Friday severed diplomatic ties with Iran.

On February 25, Morocco recalled its charge d'affaires in Tehran for consultations over what it termed "inopportune expressions" by an Iranian official.

The remarks attributed to Ali Akbar Nateq Nuri (pictured left), a prominent member of Iran's powerful Expediency Council, touched a raw nerve in Bahrain who protested to Tehran after Nateq Nuri said that the Gulf kingdom of Bahrain used to be Iran's 14th province and that it had a representative in the Iranian parliament. The Gulf kingdom of Bahrain is ruled by a Sunni elite, but its Shiite majority has close ties to Iran, which holds longtime claims to the island.

Morocco's move is not considerd by analysts to be so much about Bahrain but about the Iranian diplomatic mission in Rabat seeking to spread Shia Islam in the predominantly Sunni Muslim kingdom. A statement from Morocco's foreign ministry accused on Friday the Iranian embassy of "intolerable interference in the internal affairs of the kingdom", and of engaging in activities which threatened the religious unity of the country.

"The Kingdom of Morocco has decided to break its diplomatic relations with the Islamic Republic of Iran beginning this Friday," the ministry said.Moroccan local media has repeatedly accused Iran of proselytising in recent years, claims rejected by the Iranian ambassador.

Morocco, however, has no official Shia population, with 99 per cent of the country are Sunnis, and the rest either jews or Christians. Sunni scholars in Morocco have denounced what they say is an effort to convert people to Shi'ism, arguing that such a practice could ultimately lead to sectarian strife similar to that witnessed in Iraq after the US-led invasion in 2003.

Furthermore, as Mohamed VI, Morocco's king, is the country's official religious leader, any attempt to convert Sunni Muslims has been equated to an attack on the monarchy, the foreign ministry said.


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