obama egypt visit 248.88.
(photo credit: AP)
The Egyptian hosts of US President Barack Obama's upcoming Cairo speech invited Iran's top diplomat here to attend, an Iranian diplomat said Wednesday.
Including the Iranian in the list of guests to Obama's highly anticipated speech to the Muslim World is significant as Teheran and Washington do not have diplomatic ties and officials from both countries usually avoid direct encounters.
The Iranians, however, would not say whether they would be attending Obama's address to the Muslim world Thursday at Cairo University.
"A decision to attend is currently being made by the Foreign Ministry in Teheran," Aboul Qassim Zakeri, an Iranian official in Cairo, told the Associated Press.
If Hussein Rajabi, the top Iranian diplomat in Egypt, attends, it would be the first time Obama addresses a gathering in the presence of Iranian officials, following his promise to engage the country diplomatically.
Al-Azhar and Cairo University are co-sponsoring the speech and sent invitations to hundreds of Egyptians and foreign diplomats, to attend.
The move follows a State Department cable to all US embassies and consulates late last week saying that US diplomats could invite their Iranian counterparts to Independence Day parties hosted on or around July 4th.
The overture comes amid the administration's ongoing efforts to engage Iran in variety of venues, including formal diplomatic meetings over its nuclear program, violence in Iraq and the situation in Afghanistan.
Obama and other US officials have said they do not expect to see much movement from Iran until after the country holds presidential elections in the middle of the month, but have sketched a rough deadline of the fall by which they hope to see positive responses to their overtures.