Egypt's Morsy to visit Tehran for NAM meeting

First such visit by Egyptian head of state since 1979 Islamic revolution could signal interest in renewing bilateral ties.

Flags of the Non-Aligned Movement members 370 (photo credit: REUTERS/Raheb Homavandi)
Flags of the Non-Aligned Movement members 370
(photo credit: REUTERS/Raheb Homavandi)
Egypt's Islamist President Mohamed Morsy will visit Iran to attend the Non-Aligned Movement meetings on Aug. 30, Egyptian state news agency MENA reported, the first such visit by an Egyptian head of state to Tehran since the Islamic revolution.
MENA quoted sources at the Egyptian presidency saying on Saturday that Morsy "will participate in the summit" on his way back from China.
A spokesman for Morsy was not immediately available for comment. Egyptian media reports have suggested Morsy might send his newly appointed deputy, Mahmoud Mekki, instead.
Since Egypt's Hosni Mubarak was toppled in a popular uprising last year, Egypt and Iran have signaled interest in renewing ties severed more than 30 years ago after Iran's Islamic Revolution and Egypt's recognition of Israel.
However, with the West pushing Iran to halt its disputed nuclear program and the United States being a major donor to Egypt's military, any improvement in ties could become a tricky path to tread.
Morsy said in June he would sue an Iranian news agency after it quoted him as saying he was interested in restoring relations with Tehran. Morsy aides said the interview was a fabrication.
Iran hailed the victory of Morsy, who resigned from the Muslim Brotherhood when he was elected in June, as an "Islamic Awakening." Morsy, however, has striven to reassure Egypt's Western allies wary at the prospect of Islamist rule, and Gulf states that are deeply suspicious of Iranian influence.
Egypt is the current head of the Non-Aligned Movement, founded during the Cold War to advocate the causes of the developing world, is set to hand over to Iran in the Tehran meeting. The group is composed of some 120 nations that claim not to be aligned with any major world power bloc.
Egypt's formal recognition of Israel and Iran's 1979 Islamic Revolution led in 1980 to the breakdown of diplomatic relations between the two countries, among the biggest and most influential in the Middle East. They currently have reciprocal interest sections, but not at ambassadorial level.
Egypt's former president Anwar Sadat received Iran's late Shah Mohammed Reza Pahlavi who fled Iran following the revolution in 1979 while one of Tehran's streets is named after the man who assassinated Sadat during a military parade in 1981.
This year's summit of Non-Aligned Movement members in Tehran was the subject of controversy earlier this month when Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu urged UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon not to attend for fear of legitimizing the Iranian regime. “Mr. Secretary-General, your place is not in Tehran,” Netanyahu bluntly stated.