Morocco Blocks Opening Of First Ikea Store On Tuesday

Rabat (AFP) - Morocco blocked Tuesday's planned opening of the kingdom's first Ikea store saying it lacked a "conformity permit", as local media linked the case to Stockholm's position on the disputed Western Sahara.

A grand opening was planned for the world's top furniture company in Zenata, on the outskirts of Morocco's economic capital Casablanca.

But the Swedish brand had failed to obtain the necessary "conformity permit" for the opening to go ahead, Moroccan authorities said in a statement, without elaborating.

The news website 360, which is close to the royal palace, said the measure was in retaliation for Swedish moves to "recognise" the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic declared by the separatist Polisario Front.

It said Prime Minister Abdelilah Benkirane chaired an emergency meeting of party leaders on Monday night to discuss the Western Sahara at which it was decided "to re-evaluate Swedish interests in Morocco".

Driss Lachgar, an opposition party leader who took part in the meeting, confirmed to AFP 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 authorisations in Morocco," a spokeswoman said.

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

Algeria and Morocco have been at odds over Western Sahara since Rabat occupied the former Spanish colony in 1975, with Algiers backing the Polisario Front.

UN-sponsored talks to try to resolve the dispute between Morocco and the Polisario over the future of the territory have stalled.

( AFP )
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