Ahmadinejad, Mubarak discuss Gaza

Phone call is first direct connection between presidents of states with shaky relations.

mubarak 224.88 (photo credit: AP [file])
mubarak 224.88
(photo credit: AP [file])
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad telephoned his Egyptian counterpart for the first time and discussed the situation in the Gaza Strip in the latest sign of warming ties between the two long time Middle East rivals, the official Iranian News Agency reported Tuesday. Ahmadinejad and Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak discussed the crisis in Gaza and called for the lifting of the siege on Gaza and the dispatch of fuel and medicine to the Palestinians, the Egyptian state news agency confirmed. This was the first time Iranian president had ever spoken by phone to his Egyptian counterpart and the call comes as Iran has been pushing for improving ties between the two countries which were severed in 1979. Teheran cut diplomatic ties after Cairo signed a peace agreement with Israel and provided asylum for the deposed Iranian Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi. Egypt has always maintained that normal ties with Iran would come only after Iran stopped meddling in internal affairs of Arab countries. Iran's support for Iraqi Shi'ites, Lebanon's Hizbullah and Palestinians' Hamas has further deteriorated relations, resulting in very limited diplomatic contacts between the two countries. Early this month, however, top level Iranian envoy Ali Larijani came to Cairo and met with Egyptian officials. His trip followed an exchange of visits by the countries' deputy foreign ministers in September and October. Ahmadinejad has repeatedly offered to restore ties, something Egypt says it is considering, while noting that full diplomatic relations could only be restored if Iran takes down a large mural of former Egyptian President Anwar Sadat's assassin, Khaled el-Islambouli, and change the name of a street honoring him. The US has repeatedly warned Arab countries of Iran's designs on the region.