Cairo: Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is due in Cairo on Tuesday for the first visit by an Iranian head of state to Egypt in 34 years in a fresh sign of a thaw in ties between the two countries.
Egyptian President Mohammad Mursi will receive Ahmadinejad at the airport and they are expected to hold talks on the sidelines of a major Islamic conference that will start in Cairo on Wednesday, Gulf News has learnt.
Hours after his arrival on Tuesday, Ahmadinejad will visit Al Azhar, the influential Sunni Muslim institution, for talks with Sheikh of Al Azhar Ahmed Al Tayeb, an Egyptian diplomatic source said. “They will discuss the role of Al Azhar in espousing Islamic causes and prospects for cooperation,” added the source on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the media.
Several clerics in predominantly Muslim Egypt have recently warned of alleged attempts by Shiite Iran to promote Shiism in Egypt , two years after a popular uprising toppled former president Husni Mubarak, a vocal critic of Tehran.
An Egyptian group, calling itself the Muslim Coalition for Defence of the Prophet’s Family and Companions, said Monday it would hold a series of protests against Ahmadinejad’s visit that runs until Thursday.
“The Iranian regime is involved in the massacres in Syria and constantly tries to spread Shiism in Egypt,” the group said in a statement.
Iran severed diplomatic ties with Egypt in 1980, one year after the Islamic Revolution in protest of Egypt’s hosting of its deposed Shah and its peace treaty with Israel.
They maintain interest section offices in each other’s capitals amid growing signs of resumption of full diplomatic ties now that Islamists are in power in Egypt.
Mursi visited Tehran in August, the first by an Egyptian president to Iran in more than three decades, to attend a Non-Aligned Movement summit. Iran is a staunch ally of Syrian President Bashar Al Assad whom Mursi has repeatedly urged to leave power.