Egypt’s newly elected president Mohammed Morsi has charged that an Iranian news agency fabricated an interview with him which suggested that he wanted closer ties with Teheran.
A spokesman for Morsi, the Islamist who just won Egypt’s first ever democratic election, told the MENA news agency that the Fars news service of Iran completely made up the interview.
The earlier report by Fars claimed that Morsi sought to improve ties with the Iranians in order to create a strategic “balance” in the Middle East, citing that it spoke to the Muslim Brotherhood leader just hours before election results were released on Sunday.
We must restore normal relations with Iran based on shared interests, and expand areas of political coordination and economic cooperation because this will create a balance of pressure in the region, Morsi allegedly told Fars.
But Yasser Ali, an aide to Morsi, told Reuters: There was never a meeting with the Iranian news agency Fars and what was taken as statements has no basis in truth.
Reuters also noted that the Fars web page published a transcript of its alleged interview with Morsi and even included an audio version of the conversation (the voice apparently was not that of Morsi).
Relations between these two giant Islamic nations have been strained since 1979, when a revolution brought an Islamic regime to Iran, while simultaneously Egypt signed a peace deal with Israel. Cairo and Teheran have not had full diplomatic ties since then, although they keep missions in each other’s capitals.
The president of Iran President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad did congratulate Morsi on his victory, declaring: I emphasize expanding bilateral ties and strengthening the friendship between the two nations,” according to Iranian state television.
However, in the event Egypt really did seek to establish close relations with Iran, it would contravene western policy of trying to isolate the Teheran regime over its nuclear power program. Egypt may be wary of alienating its western allies by cozying up to Teheran, especially in the wake of the revolution that toppled Hosni Mubarak.
U.S. White House spokesman Jay Carney commented on the two Mideast nations: It is perfectly appropriate for a nation like Egypt to have relations with its neighbors, but again we look to Egypt to continue its significant role as a pillar of regional peace and stability.”