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Egyptian diplomat says ties with Iran "strategic necessity"

TEHRAN, Aug 8 (AFP) - Egypt's highest-ranking diplomat in Iran said cooperation between the two nations was a "strategic necessity" and praised the expansion of ties under Iranian President Mohammad Khatami.

"Cooperation between our two countries is a strategic necessity that must go beyond mere words and be translated into concrete action to establish peace and stability in the region," Mohammad Al-Refaieh, head of Egypt's interests section in Tehran, told the official IRNA news agency Saturday.

He noted Iran 's efforts to defuse tension between Syria and Turkey and its cooperation with Saudi Arabia to boost oil prices earlier this year as "examples of unity and solidarity among Islamic nations."

Refaieh shrugged off questions about the arrest of 13 Iranian Jews on charges of spying for Israel, saying he agreed with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak that the matter was an internal one that concerns Tehran alone.

"The best way to forge strong relations between our fraternal countries is to respect the principle of non-interference in each other's internal affairs," he said.

Mubarak said in July that Egypt was unwilling to resume full diplomatic relations with Tehran, singling out the decision to name a Tehran street after Khaled al-Islambuli, who masterminded the 1981 assassination of Egyptian president Anwar Sadat.

Sadat became the object of Islamic fundamentalist hatred after signing the Camp David peace accords with Israel.

The two most populous countries in the Middle East are currently only represented by interests sections in each other's capitals, but have signed several bilateral cooperation accords, mainly in the health and pharmaceutical sectors.

Iranian Foreign Minister Kamal Kharazi sent his Egyptian counterpart Amr Mussa a letter last month calling for increased ties between the two nations.

As well as congratulating Mussa on the anniversary of the 1952 overthrow of the Egyptian monarchy, Kharazi expressed Iran 's desire to "start a close cooperation with Egypt in all areas," a London- based Arabic paper reported.


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