AFP: Iranian Foreign Minister Monouchehr Mottaki on Saturday said Tehran found Morocco's decision to sever ties with the Islamic republic in a spat over Bahrain both surprising and questionable.
TEHRAN (AFP) — Iranian Foreign Minister Monouchehr Mottaki on Saturday said Tehran found Morocco's decision to sever ties with the Islamic republic in a spat over Bahrain both surprising and questionable.
On Friday, Rabat announced it was cutting ties with Tehran, resurrecting a row sparked by a senior Iranian official who questioned Bahrain's sovereignty.
"The action by the Morocco government is surprising and questionable," Mottaki told reporters.
Morocco's decision followed Rabat's express backing for Bahrain — despite Iran moving to patch up their differences — with Rabat accusing Tehran of seeking to impose Shiite Muslim ideology on the Sunni-ruled Gulf Arab kingdom.
A prominent member of Iran's powerful Expediency Council, Ali Akbar Nateq Nuri, said on February 20 that Bahrain used to be Iran's 14th province and that it had a representative in the Iranian parliament.
Having touched a raw nerve in Bahrain — which itself protested to Tehran — and among Arab nations, Iran moved to try to defuse the spat which threatened a major bilateral gas deal, by saying it respects Bahraini sovereignty.
However, after Morocco's King Mohammed VI sent his foreign minister to Bahrain bearing a message of support for its ruler King Hamad, Iran protested by calling in Rabat's representative in Tehran.
Morocco's move to end diplomatic relations came nine days after Rabat recalled its charge d'affaires from Tehran for consultations over what it termed "inopportune expressions."
Moroccan Foreign Minister Taieb Fassi Fihri also told the Iranian ambassador to Rabat, Vahid Ahmadi, that support for Bahrain, which hosts the US Navy's Fifth Fleet in the Gulf, was based on the latter's "attachment to international law," according to a Moroccan diplomatic source.
Iran's "inadmissible attitude, solely directed towards Morocco," was a sign of its desire to "alter the religious fundamentals of the kingdom, to attack the roots of the Moroccan people's ancestral identity," the source said.
Iran "seeks to threaten" the integrity of Sunni Muslim Morocco, which the source said was part of "sustained, structured action" amounting to "intolerable interference" in internal Moroccan affairs.
Later on Saturday the foreign ministry in a statement said the allegations by Morocco about Iranian interference in its internal affairs are "utterly baseless, unfounded and we strongly reject them," the Fars news agency said.
Fassi Fihri told AFP on Friday that Rabat's decision was "legitimate, normal and logical."
The relationship between Sunni-ruled Gulf Arab states and non-Arab Shiite Muslim Iran has long been strained, with the former wary of Tehran's nuclear drive and its close ties with the new Shiite-led government in Iraq.