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'Hostile' Sweden reason Morocco blocked Ikea

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'Hostile' Sweden reason Morocco blocked Ikea
Ikea's construction site in Morocco. Photo: AP Photo/Abdeljalil Bounhar
08:01 CEST+02:00
UPDATED: Ikea has said it still hopes to open its first store in Morocco after authorities blocked the move following claims Sweden is planning to recognize a breakaway republic in Western Sahara.

A statement from the interior ministry earlier this week said that the Swedish company's 26,000-square-metre store in the North African kingdom had been blocked because it lacked a “conformity permit”.

But a news site close to the Moroccan Royal Court claimed that the measure was in retaliation for Swedish moves to "recognize" the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic declared by the separatist Polisario Front.

The decision was taken at a snap meeting on Monday attended by representatives of eight parliamentary parties, wrote Morocco World News.

Late on Tuesday, Driss Lachgar, an opposition party leader who took part in the meeting, confirmed to the AFP news agency that the issue was raised because the ruling coalition in Sweden was preparing a parliamentary vote on recognition of the Sahrawi Republic.

"After Algeria, Sweden is the country that is most hostile to the territorial integrity of Morocco," he charged.

In Stockholm, a foreign ministry spokesman denied any link between Ikea's opening and Western Sahara.

"Our information is that the store does not have all the authorizations in Morocco," a spokeswoman said.

Inter Ikea Systems, the group which owns the worldwide chain, said the franchise was still working to open in Morocco.

Ikea had been planning to open five stores in the country, the first of which was due to open in Zenata, between Casablanca and capital Rabat.

Western Sahara was a Spanish colony up until 1975 and Morocco today claims two thirds of the area as its own. However, independence movement Polisario Front wants to break away and form a new state called the Sahrawi Republic.

Sweden and its Scandinavian neighbours largely support self-determination for Western Sahara. But other nations, such as France and Spain, have been accused of backing the Moroccan side.

No western powers have so far formally recognized Polisario's planned Sahrawi Republic, which is backed by a number of members of the African Union.

The Swedish parliament voted to recognize Western Sahara in 2011, but the then centre-right government rejected the motion.

Prime Minister Stefan Löfven's ruling centre-left coalition, which recognized Palestine after winning Sweden's general election last September, said in March this year that formally supporting an independent Western Sahara was not currently on the table.

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