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Iran, Egypt renewing ties?

Iran said Tuesday that it had appointed an ambassador to Egypt for the first time in 30 years, and that diplomatic relations between the two countries—among biggest and most influential countries of the Middle East—had been re-established.

Iran’s Press TV said that Ali Akbar Sibuyeh, a career diplomat who is the son of a senior cleric, had been named Iran’s ambassador Egypt. The name of the new Egyptian ambassador had not been announced as of midmorning Tuesday (GMT).

However, Iran declined to confirm the news report.

“The news regarding the appointment of an ambassador is guesswork and is hasty,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast said at his weekly news conference in Tehran.

Ties between Iran and Egypt were severed in 1980 following Iran’s Islamic revolution 1979 and Egypt’s recognition of Israel.

Cairo has long been an ally of the United States and Israel but since a popular uprising toppled President Hosni Mubarak of Egypt, there have been signs of warming between mainly Sunni Muslim Egypt and predominantly Shiite Iran.

The chief of Egypt’s outlawed Islamic-oriented Labor Party, Magdi Hussein, held talks on Monday with top Iranian diplomats in Tehran in a bid to thaw relations between the two nations.

In a column written for his party Website, Mr. Hussein said that he met with Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi of Iran, Secretary of Supreme National Security Council Saeed Jalili, and Speaker of the Parliament Ali Larijani.

Mr. Hussein said that he was invited to Iran “for talks on Egyptian-Iranian relations and the ongoing revolutionary developments in the region.”

His visit came about two weeks after Egypt’s foreign minister, Nabil al-Arabi, said he would seek normalization in ties with the Islamic republic.

“Iran is a state in the region, and we have had long-term historical ties with it over the different periods,” Mr. al-Arabi told a news conference. “We will turn over a new leaf with all states, including Iran.”

But Mr. Arabi later said that the Gulf states’ Arab identity was a “red line.” These states have accused Iran of trying to destabilize Bahrain.

Mr. Hussein and Mr. Salehi also discussed Iran's nuclear program.

Mr. Salehi said that the success of Iran’s nuclear program would be in both Arab and Egyptian interests as it “could pave the way for similar Arab projects.”

Mr. Hussein said that his Islamic-oriented Labor Party had supported former president Mubarak’s announced nuclear program in 2006.

He said that his party wanted Egypt’s nuclear program to include the production of nuclear fuel through the enrichment of uranium.

“Without this [nuclear fuel] a nuclear plant would turn into a piece of worthless stone,” Mr. Hussein said, supporting Iran's idea of refusing to import nuclear fuel from the West.

He said that he discussed the regional and international developments with Mr. Jalili, who is also Iran’s senior nuclear negotiator with the West. Mr. Hussein said that both men were in “complete agreement” in their discussions.

He told Mr. Jalili that the “awaited great Islamic bloc has to benefit from the positive experiences of the West.”

He said that Iran’s parliament speaker, Mr. Larijani, told him that a parliamentary republic would be the most appropriate system for Egypt because “the president of a republic can be subject to foreign pressures.”

Mr. Hussein, who was released from prison shortly before the revolution, announced he would contest the coming presidential election after the ban was lifted on his party.
His party calls for establishing an economic system based on the Sharia, achieving unity between Egypt, Sudan and Libya, and liberating occupied Palestinian.

Egypt, with an estimated population of 82 million, is the second largest recipient of US foreign aid after Israel. It has an annual GDP of $500 billion and a GDP per capita of $6,200.

Iran has a population of about 78 million people, an annual GDP of $863 billion and a GDP per capita of $11,200.

(Abeer Tayel of Al Arabiya can be reached at: abeer.tayel@mbc.net. Mustapha Ajbaili, also of Al Arabiya, can be reached at: Mustapha.ajbaili@mbc.net.)