Iran’s Ahmadinejad Seeks Strategic Axis With Egypt

President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, on the first visit to Cairo by an Iranian leader in more than three decades, called for a strategic alliance with Egypt and said he had offered the cash-strapped Arab state a loan, but drew a cool response.

Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi embraces his Iranian counterpart Mahmoud Ahmadinejad-in Cairo
Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi embraces his Iranian counterpart Mahmoud Ahmadinejad-in Cairo

Ahmadinejad said outside forces were trying to prevent a rapprochement between the Middle East’s two most populous nations, at odds since Iran’s 1979 Islamic revolution and Egypt’s signing of a peace treaty with Israel in the same year.”We must all understand that the only option is to set up this alliance because it is in the interests of the Egyptian and Iranian peoples and other nations of the region,” the official MENA news agency quoted him in remarks to Egyptian journalists published on Wednesday.

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad greeted at the airport by Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi
Mahmoud Ahmadinejad greeted at the airport by Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi

The two countries have not restored diplomatic ties since Egypt overthrew its long term leader Hosni Mubarak in 2011, but its first Islamist president, Mohamed Morsi, gave Ahmadinejad a red-carpet welcome on Tuesday to a summit of Islamic nations.

“There are those striving to prevent these two great countries from coming together despite the fact that the region’s problems require this meeting, especially the Palestinian question,” Ahmadinejad said.

Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, left, and Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi
Iran’s President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, left, and Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi

Egypt’s foreign minister played down the significance of the visit, telling Reuters the Iranian leader, one of several heads of state to get the red-carpet treatment, was in Cairo chiefly for the Islamic summit beginning on Wednesday, “so it’s just a normal procedure. That’s all.”

He had earlier reassured Gulf Arab countries that Egypt would not sacrifice their security.

Before his trip, Ahmadinejad gave a long interview to the editor-in-chief of Egypt‘s newspaper Al-Ahram. Although Al-Ahram ran the entire interview only in its print edition, excerpts appeared on Egyptian websites.

Ahmadinejad said the world must now treat Iran as a nuclear country. “They want Iran to go back to what it was in the past, but they won’t succeed. They assume we’ll give in to pressure; such thoughts are misguided. We’re already an industrial and nuclear country, a country that has conquered space. For years we have been thinking about sending a human being into space, and we will do that, with Allah’s help. We must ensure development and growth and bring them to pass, and the world must acknowledge our progress,” he said, adding that the best solution was cooperation with Iran.

During the interview, Ahmadinejad condemned what he described as massacres committed by Israel. “For us, supporting the Palestinian people is a matter of human importance in every sense. The Palestinians must receive their rights, and the Zionists are moving closer and closer toward the edge.”

He added that his country was opposed to any outside military intervention in Syria, saying that the solution to the crisis there was dialogue between all the Syrian groups

Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad gestures in front of the shrine of Hussein ibn Ali at the Al-Hussein mosque in old Cairo
Iran’s President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad gestures in front of the shrine of Hussein ibn Ali at the Al-Hussein mosque in old Cairo

Three Egyptians and a Syrian were detained on suspicion of trying to attack the Iranian president at a mosque, security sources said. They were held overnight but released on bail of 500 Egyptian pounds ($75) each on Wednesday.

Video footage shot by a Turkish cameraman appeared to show a bearded man trying twice to throw a shoe at Ahmadinejad as he was mobbed by well-wishers on leaving the Hussein mosque.The president was not hit but was hustled to his car by security men, stopping to wave before he was driven away.

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