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Egypt's Morsi to make historic trip to Tehran

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Egypt's state news agency has reported that President Mohamed Morsi will visit Iran to attend the Non-Aligned Movement meetings on August 30.

MENA said Morsi's visit will be the first such visit by an Egyptian head of state to Tehran since the Iranian revolution of 1979.

The agency quoted sources at the Egyptian presidency as saying on Saturday that Morsi "will participate in the summit" on his way back from China.

Other Egyptian media reports have suggested Morsi, the Muslim Brotherhood candidate who won the poll in June, might send his newly appointed deputy, Mahmoud Mekki, instead.

Egypt is the current head of the Non-Aligned Movement, founded during the Cold War to advocate the causes of the developing world. It is set to hand over the chairmanship to Iran in the Tehran meeting.

Since Egypt's Hosni Mubarak was toppled in a popular uprising last year, Egypt and Iran have signalled interest in renewing ties severed more than 30 years ago after Iran's revolution that established the Islamic Republic and Egypt's recognition of Israel.

However, with western governments pushing Iran to halt its disputed nuclear programme and the United States being a major donor to Egypt's military, any improvement in ties could become a tricky path to tread.

Morsi said in June he would sue an Iranian news agency after it quoted him as saying he was interested in restoring relations with Tehran, although his aides later said the that interview was a fabrication.

America responds

Iran hailed Morsi's victory as an "Islamic Awakening", while Morsi himself is striving to reassure Egypt's western allies wary at the prospect of Islamist rule, and Gulf states that are deeply suspicious of Iranian influence.

Richard Murphy, a former US assistant Secretary of State, said that the US will likely not be pleased if Egyptian-Iranian relations are restored.

"America has tried along with Europe to forge a system of isolation of Iran and avoid giving any prestige to the regime in Iran," Murphy said.

"And [Iran’s] ability to host this Non-Aligned conference does add to its image internationally and that won’t make America happy."

Egypt's formal recognition of Israel and Iran's 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, while one of Tehran's streets is named after the man who assassinated Sadat during a military parade in 1981.


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