Minister says Iran wants full ties with Egypt
TEHRAN, June 21 (Reuters) - A senior Iranian official said on Monday
his country wanted to re-establish closer ties with Egypt, and sharply
criticised Islamic hardliners who were trying to undermine them.
``The view of the government and the Supreme National Security Council
is to move toward a comprehensive rebuilding of ties with Egypt,'' Ataollah
Mohajerani, the government spokesman and Minister of Culture and Islamic
Guidance, told reporters.
The council, headed by moderate President Mohammad Khatami, is Iran's
top policy-making body for security affairs.
Speaking at a news conference, the minister sharply criticised a hardline
faction in Iran which has launched a campaign to undermine better relations
between Tehran and Cairo.
The group painted a mural in Tehran last week in honour of the assassin
of the late Egyptian leader Anwar Sadat. The mural appears on a building
overlooking the street named after Khaled Islambouli, the Islamic activist
who assassinated Sadat in 1981.
The move was in defiance of parliament speaker Ali Akbar Nateq-Nouri,
who recently said Iran could consider renaming the street if it helped
improve troubled ties with Egypt.
It also came on the opening day of an Islamic conference hosted by Tehran
to promote Moslem unity. Egypt has sent a delegation to the meeting.
``The move was a clear expression of this group's poor taste, at a time
when we had Egyptian guests in Tehran and a good and suitable atmosphere
of cooperation had taken shape,'' said Mohajerani, who is a reputed moderate
close to Khatami and has been a target of extremists' wrath and even physical
Cairo has long let it be known that better relations were impossible
as long as Tehran continued to honour Islambouli, and the mural appeared
to be a direct attempt to halt a gradual diplomatic warming.
Iran cut diplomatic ties with Egypt in 1979 after Sadat signed a peace
treaty with Israel and gave asylum to the Shah toppled by the Islamic