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Iran, Egypt may announce full ties -Iran official

CRANS-MONTANA, Switzerland, June 30 (Reuters) - Estranged Middle East heavyweights Iran and Egypt may announce within weeks the resumption of full diplomatic ties after 21 years of strained relations, a senior Iranian official said on Friday.

``As far as I know there is a plan in the next few weeks to announce the official resumption of full diplomatic relations,'' Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Mohammad Hossein Adeli said during a panel discussion at the Crans-Montana business forum.

Iran broke diplomatic ties with Egypt in 1979 after Cairo signed a peace treaty with Israel.

Egypt gave refuge to the shah after he was ousted by the late Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini's Islamic revolution that same year. The shah died in 1980 and was buried in Cairo.

But Egyptian-Iranian ties have improved markedly since Iran's reformist President Mohammad Khatami was elected in 1997, although they have stopped short of the full normalisation that Khatami has said he wants.

Last week, Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak telephoned Khatami in the first top-level contact of its kind in more than two decades.

Mubarak, who came to power after Islamic radicals assassinated President Anwar Sadat in 1981, called to congratulate Khatami on the decision of the G-15 group of developing countries at a summit in Cairo to accept Iran's application to join.

Last Friday , Egyptian Foreign Minister Amr Moussa said in published remarks that the door was open for better Egyptian-Iranian relations.

``I think that with these trends we have seen in recent years, one would expect that this would continue in the future and we are expecting to see some developments in the very near future,'' Adeli said.

The deputy foreign minister cited the improving tone of bilateral ties, capped by the phone call between Khatami and Mubarak.

``I am optimistic,'' Adeli told Reuters when asked to elaborate on his remarks.

``I don't know when, but it will be in the near future. The exchanges that have been made recently indicate that there are going to be some new developments towards the establishment of full diplomatic ties in the near future,'' he added.

Positive diplomatic signals were flowing in both directions, he said.

Cairo has said it cannot countenance a full restoration of ties until Iran re-names a Tehran street named in honour of Khaled Islambouli, an Islamic radical who assassinated Sadat.

Islamic hardliners in Iran oppose reconciliation with Egypt, a major U.S. ally in the region. The Tehran offices of a newly set up Iran-Egypt Friendship Society were ransacked in January.


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