Last Updated: Mon Nov 01, 2010 20:30 pm (KSA) 17:30 pm (GMT)

Britain "regrets" Egypt pope search offense

Shenouda, 84, was forced to go through security checks (File)
Shenouda, 84, was forced to go through security checks (File)

Britain's ambassador to Egypt met with Coptic Pope Shenouda III on Tuesday in a bid to defuse an escalating row after authorities at London's Heathrow airport tried to search the Orthodox pontiff.

"We have the highest respect, esteem and affection for Pope Shenouda," an embassy statement quoted Ambassador Dominic Asquith as saying.

And Egypt's official MENA news agency said Asquith called Shenouda "to apologize for the insult made against him ... when security authorities insisted on searching him in defiance of standard protocols."

Authorities eventually did not physically search Shenouda, 84, but the Pope was "forced to go through a metal detector," Egypt's Deputy Foreign Minister Wafa Bassim told the Shura Council, the upper house of Egypt's parliament, earlier this week.

Egypt said on Sunday it would step up airport security procedures for British officials after airport authorities tried to physically search Shenouda who has a diplomatic passport, before he boarded his flight.

The British ambassador said: "There has been no intention at all to offend His Holiness or make him upset. We regret any other impressions that might have been deduced."

Shura speaker Sawfat al-Sherif had demanded an official apology from the British government.

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