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The Egyptian press calls Iran's nuclear program the "Shi'ite Bomb."
Ever since Iran declared that it would defy the international community and continue to develop its nuclear program, Egypt has not hidden its concern over the emergence of a new nuclear power in the region. Officials in Cairo recently expressed Egyptian disapproval of Iran's nuclear enrichment program - not only repeating that Egypt would not accept a second nuclear player in the Middle East, but calling for Egypt to develop a similar program.
However, despite its concern over Iran's nuclear program, Egypt refuses to participate in international sanctions on Teheran, warning the international community against measures that would have repercussions on regional stability.
While Egypt has thus far refused the Iranian call to warm up existing relations, dialogue continues between Cairo and Teheran. Iranian nuclear negotiator Ali Larijani, along with other senior Iranian officials, has visited Cairo twice in the last few months for talks with his Egyptian counterparts.
Iran would like to see its diplomatic relations with Egypt normalized, said an Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman on Friday, and added that Iran saw great opportunities for the cooperation with Egypt in both regional and international affairs.
The Iranian statement reflects the nation's dismay at the fact that Egypt refuses to accept its overtures for either stronger diplomatic relations or open embassies in Teheran and Cairo. Egypt has announced that it will not normalize the relations with Iran unless Teheran agrees to change the name of a street named after Khaled Islambuli, assassin of former Egyptian president Anwar Sadat.
Egypt and Iran appear to be playing hide and seek, and a mix of respect and suspicion characterizes their relations. On the one hand, Cairo respects the new balance of power that has evolved in the region, and accepts Iran as a key regional factor. On the other hand, Egypt still places constraints on cooperation with Iran. Teheran, meanwhile, has doubled its efforts to strengthen ties with Cairo, and believes that legitimization from Egypt could lead to a stamp of approval from other Arab nations.
Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak's call for a nuclear-free Middle East should be interpreted as part of Egypt's attempt to limit both Iran's quest for nuclear capability and quell Iran's growing influence in the region.
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