'Iran investors eye Egypt amid row with US'

Iranians want to invest in Egyptian industrial, tourist sectors especially amid Cairo-Washington row, Al Arabiya reports.

February 22, 2012 17:36
2 minute read.
Iranian Flag

Iranian Flag (R)_311. (photo credit: Reuters)


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Iranian investors are have expressed interest in Egypt's industrial sector especially amid tensions between Cairo and Washington over the detention of foreign NGO employees working in Egypt, pan-Arab news channel Al-Arabiya reported Wednesday.

Egyptian economists said the Iranian investors were interested primarily in Egypt's industrial sector, and not the real estate sector where Arab countries have focused their investments, according to the report. Tehran sees Egypt as an opportunity to break its economic isolation after Western countries have slapped far-reaching sanctions on Iran over its nuclear program.

Delegations from the two Middle Eastern countries have met recently to discuss improving ties between the two nations, which were largely cold since the Islamic Revolution.

At least 43 activists, including 19 Americans, have been detained in Egypt after being accused of working illegally in the country in a diplomatic crisis that saw Washington threaten to cut aid to Egypt.

Officials in Iran have expressed hope that relations between Cairo and Tehran will improve after the fall of former president Hosni Mubarak, who viewed Iran as a challenge for Egypt.

Last April, Iran announced it had appointed its first ambassador to Egypt in over 30 years.

Still, many Egyptian parliamentarians, including those in the majority Muslim Brotherhood political party, view Iran unfavorably especially in light of the civil conflict in Syria, where the government of Iran-backed President Bashar Assad has continued its crackdown on largely Sunni anti-government activists.

Trade between the two nations improved in the 1990s despite the cold diplomatic relations, and Iranian investors said they see the Arab republic as a prime tourist locations for Iranians. According to Al-Arabiya, Iranians have said their tourists would inject hard currency into Egypt, which saw its economy plummet since mass protests collapsed the government in Cairo in February 2011.

Iran is also facing difficult economic conditions as Western sanctions over the Islamic Republic's nuclear program has chased away investors and seen the Iranian rial drop to record lows.

According to economics professor Dr. Mustafa al-Nashrati from Cairo University, who spoke to Al-Arabiya, Iranian investors jumped on the opportunity presented by the diplomatic row between the US and Egypt. Egyptian businessmen have looked to Turkey and Iran amid the ongoing tensions with the US, which pledges $1.3 billion in military aid to Cairo annualy.

Some in Egypt's Islamist camp would rather see improved relations with Iran than continuing ties with neighboring Israel, Nashrati said.

Iran is specifically interested in investing in Egypt's petrochemicals and natural gas industries, Nashrati told Al-Arabiya.

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