Egypt's presidential spokesman tried Sunday to soften remarks by President Hosni Mubarak who accused Iraqi Shi'ites of more loyalty to Iran than to their own country, after Iraqi leaders called the words insulting and offensive.
The flap over the president's televised remarks Saturday was the latest sign of sharp new tensions between Arab countries - alarmed by possible Shi'ite and Kurdish domination of their neighbor - and Iraqis who say they aren't getting enough support from their Arab brothers.
Mubarak's spokesman said the president was merely expressing worries about Iraq's national unity. But Iraq's president called Mubarak's words "annoying" and an insult, and the country's prime minister said they were offensive to all Iraqis and that Iraqi diplomats were seeking clarification from Cairo.
An Iraqi diplomat in Cairo, speaking on condition of anonymity because of the situation's sensitivity, said Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari had contacted his Egyptian counterpart, Ahmed Aboul Gheit, on Sunday to complain about Mubarak's remarks.