Morocco blocks Ikea store amid reported diplomatic rift

AP News
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Posted: Sep 29, 2015 11:20 AM
Morocco blocks Ikea store amid reported diplomatic rift

RABAT, Morocco (AP) — Furniture giant Ikea is facing a cold welcome in Morocco.

The government has suspended the opening of the country's first Ikea store, in a last-minute decision reportedly linked to diplomatic tensions over the Moroccan-controlled Western Sahara.

The company spent months building the sprawling store between Casablanca and neighboring Mohammedia, and it was slated to open Tuesday. But the Interior Ministry issued a statement Tuesday morning saying the store lacks the necessary "certificate of conformity" and cannot open until it obtains one.

Ikea, which was founded in Sweden and is now based in the Netherlands, would not immediately comment on the suspended opening.

A website known for close ties to the Moroccan royal palace, Le 360, reported that the decision was linked to Swedish support for the Western Saharan independence movement. The report said the government held an "emergency meeting" Monday about Ikea's status in Morocco.

Le 360 reported that Sweden plans to recognize the independence of the Saharawi Arab Democratic Republic (SADR).

Swedish Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Katarina Byrenius Roslund said Sweden has not recognized the region as an independent state but is conducting an internal review of its "Western Sahara policy."

No future opening date has been provided. The freshly painted blue-and-yellow complex stands shuttered, its vast parking lot largely empty but for a few delivery trucks.

Several dozen countries have recognized the independence of Western Sahara, primarily in Africa.

The U.N. recently renewed a peacekeeping force that's been there since 1991. The Polisario Front group wants independence for the resource-rich former Spanish colony, annexed by Moroccan authorities in 1975.

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Karl Ritter in Stockholm contributed to this report.