Tehran declines to confirm report of restored Egypt ties

Iranian foreign ministry official says report of appointment of Iranian ambassador to Egypt "is guesswork and is hasty."

By REUTERS, JPOST.COM STAFF
April 19, 2011 09:21
2 minute read.
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Iranian Flag (R)_311. (photo credit: Reuters)

 
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TEHRAN - Iran declined to confirm a news report on Tuesday that it had appointed an ambassador to Egypt, which would mark the restoration of diplomatic relations after more than 30 years.

"The news regarding the appointment of an ambassador is guesswork and is hasty," Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast said at his weekly news conference.

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The website of Iran's Press TV reported on Monday that Tehran had already appointed its envoy, naming him as Ali Akbar Sibuyeh, a career diplomat who is the son of a senior cleric.

According to the report, the appointment comes amid a thawing of relations between the two countries, which were strained since just after the Iranian revolution in 1979.

The new ambassador's appointment reportedly came after negotiations between Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi and his Egyptian counterpart Nabil al-Arabi.

Relations between the two countries became strained after the 1979 Islamic Revolution in Iran when Iran cut ties with Egypt. Iran's move at the time was based on Egypt's participation in the 1978 Camp David Accords, and remained cold throughout the 1980s due to Egyptian support for Iraq in the Iran-Iraq War.

Relations stayed strained throughout much of former Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak's nearly 30-year rule. The Iranian government dedicated a street in Tehran to Khaled al-Islambouli, the man who assassinated Egyptian president Anwar Sadat. In 2001, BBC reported that Iran had for the second time honored Islambouli in a large mural with the words "I killed Egypt's Pharaoh." These public dedications of Sadat's assassin were reportedly why Mubarak had refused a 2004 invitation to Tehran.

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February 2011, however, saw Mubarak ousted following a wave of protests across Egypt. Since then, relations between the two countries have begun to warm.  Iran's top leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, said soon after the uprisings in Egypt saw Mubarak deposed that protests there and in Tunisia are a sign of "Islamic awareness" across the region.

In late February, Egypt allowed two Iranian naval vessels to pass through the Suez Canal en route to Syria which, according to Egyptian newspaper Al-Ahram, was the first time Iran had requested such passage in 30 years.

The Egyptian foreign minister has publicly expressed his desire to improve the two countries' ties, stating in his first news conference following his appointment that Egypt was willing to resume relations with Tehran, no longer viewed as an enemy state, Al-Ahram reported. Arabi said that "Iran is an important country and we are bound by historic ties with it."

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