Morocco cuts ties with Iran over Bahrain 

Friday, March 6, 2009 
by Lamine Ghanmi

Morocco has cut diplomatic links with Iran, the Moroccan Foreign Ministry said 
on Friday, in the wake of an outcry in the Sunni Muslim world over a statement 
by an Iranian official questioning Sunni Bahrain's sovereignty.

Rabat also criticised Iran for its efforts to spread its Shi'ite brand of Islam 
in Morocco, a move the ministry said it saw as threat to the North African 
country's moderate Sunni religious identity.

"The Kingdom of Morocco has decided to break its diplomatic relations with the 
Islamic Republic of Iran beginning this Friday," the ministry said.

Sunni scholars in Morocco and elsewhere have denounced what they see as Iran's 
efforts to convert Sunni Muslims to Shi'ism, arguing the drive would create 
strife similar to the often bloody Shi'ite-Sunni divides in Iraq and Pakistan.

According to media reports, Ali Akbar Nateq-Nouri, an adviser to Iranian 
Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, said last month Shi'ite-ruled Iran had 
sovereignty over Bahrain.

In response Morocco's King Mohammed sent the Bahraini monarch, King Hamad Bin 
Isa al-Khalifa, a message of support, calling the Iranian remarks "absurd" and 
a contradiction of international law.

On February 25, Rabat recalled its envoy to Iran to protest what Foreign 
Minister Taieb Fassi Fihri said was "inappropriate language" directed against 
Morocco in a communique reported by the Iranian news agency IRNA.

Morocco had asked Teheran for an explanation as to why it had singled out Rabat 
in the statement but Iran ignored the request made one week ago, the ministry 
added in a statement.

The foreign ministry said this was "unacceptable" and accused Iranian 
representatives in Morocco of seeking to alter "the kingdom's religious 
fundamentals," it said in reference to Iran's alleged state-backed drive to 
expand Shi'ism in Morocco.


Religion a highly sensitive issue in Morocco because King Mohamed is the only 
Islamic leader who jointly holds the title of Amir al Mouminine (Commander of 
the Faithful) and head of the state.

The ministry said efforts by Iran to spread the Shi'ite version of Islam 
threatened Morocco's Islamic unity and its identity built from the foundations 
of the moderate Sunni Malekite faith. It said:

"This kind of organised and sustained actions constitute an intolerable 
interference in the kingdom's domestic affairs and are contrary to the rules 
and ethics of diplomatic action."

Morocco, which enjoyed warm ties with Iran under the Shah until he was deposed 
in 1979, only normalised its relations with Iran by exchanging envoys in the 
late 1990s.

The government has always been concerned of Iran's role in the Sunni world 
since its Shi'ite Islamic revolution toppled the monarchy in Tehran.

Religious figures have warned of what they call the menace against the 
country's spiritual security by the Shi'ite conversion among Morocco's 30 
million people.

Political sources in Morocco say Shi'ite activists numbered several hundreds 
but they were making steady progress because of the popularity of radical 
Islamic groups backed by Iran like Hizbollah in Lebanon and Hamas in Gaza.

(Editing by Matthew Jones)

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