Egypt cancels Iranian delegation visit

Political row between countries deepens over Gaza border closure; conference was set for this week.

Egypt has canceled a scheduled visit of an Iranian delegation to Cairo, further escalating a political row between the two nations. Egypt's parliament speaker, Dr. Ahmad Fathi Surour, announced the cancellation of an Iranian visit, which was supposed to arrange the final preparations toward a scheduled conference of the Islamic Parliament's (IP) troika later this week. The IP's troika is comprised of Egypt, which currently occupies the parliament's chairmanship, Iran, where the IP headquarters are based, and Indonesia, which will head the next IP session. "The Iranian leaders' hostile statements toward Egypt do not allow a serious preparation for conference," said Surour, according to the London-based daily Ashararq Alawsat. Surour was referring to a statement made last week by Ali Akbar Rafsanjani - former Iranian president and head of Iran's Expediency Council - which criticized Egypt for closing its border with the Gaza Strip. "Islamic countries will one day be held accountable for their actions," Rafsanjani was quoted as saying by the Iranian daily Teheran Times. In response to Rafsanjani's comments, Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmad Aboul Gheit said on Sunday that Iran was all talk and had not done anything to help the Palestinians. Meanwhile, Iran, together with Syria and Indonesia, will form an Islamic troika to help remove existing obstacles to the shipment of humanitarian aid to Gaza, the official Iranian news agency Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA) quoted first vice speaker of the Iranian parliament, Muhammad Hassan Abu Turabi Fard, as saying. A delegation for the group will be formed in the near future and will visit the countries that have joint borders with Gaza, Fard said. Only two countries border Gaza, Israel and Egypt. Most of the entry points to the densely populated coastal enclave are located along its border with Israel. However, due to continued rocket fire into southern Israel from Gaza, which since June 2007 has been controlled by Hamas, Jerusalem has decided that the border crossings will only be open in times of quiet and then only to allow entry of humanitarian aid distributed by the United Nations.