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Iran President Ahmadinejad on historic Egypt visit

In this image released by the Egyptian Presidency, Iran’s President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, center, and Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi, center right, participate in an arrival ceremony at the airport in Cairo.

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has become the first Iranian president to visit Egypt since the Islamic revolution in 1979.He was greeted on arrival at Cairo International Airport by his Egyptian counterpart, Mohammed Morsi, BBC reports.Mr Ahmadinejad is to attend a summit of the Organisation of Islamic Co-operation (OIC), which begins on Wednesday, and meet Egyptian officials.Relations between the regional powers have improved since Egyptians elected an Islamist head of state in June. However, they remain at odds over several issues, including Syria, which was suspended from the OIC at its last summit despite Iranian objections.“I will try to pave the ground for developing co-operation between Iran and Egypt,” Mr Ahmadinejad was quoted as saying by Iran’s state news agency, Irna, before leaving Tehran.“If Tehran and Cairo see more eye-to-eye on regional and international issues, many [issues] will change,” he added.Later on Tuesday, the Iranian leader is expected to meet the grand sheikh of al-Azhar, the leading authority in Sunni Islam.Diplomatic ties broke down in 1980 after Egypt signed a peace treaty with Israel and gave asylum and a state funeral to Iran’s exiled Shah Reza Pahlavi. In 1981, Iran named a street in Tehran after the assassin of Egyptian President Anwar Sadat, though it was renamed 20 years later.Mr Ahmadinejad’s visit follows one to Tehran by Mr Morsi for a summit of the Non-Aligned Movement in August, when the two leaders agreed to reopen embassies. As the most populous Arab country and a historic regional heavyweight, in the past, Egypt, a predominantly Sunni Muslim power, has seen itself as a political rival of Shia Iran, says the BBC’s Yolande Knell in Cairo.Some analysts have expressed concern over the apparent decision of the new Islamist leader to reconnect with Iran, BBC correspondent adds. They note that Tehran hailed Egypt’s uprising two years ago, which forced President Hosni Mubarak to resign, as an “Islamic awakening”. President Morsi is hosting the OIC summit following days of nationwide protests by opposition supporters in which nearly 60 people have died.Meanwhile, Mr Ahmadinejad has criticised the Iranian judiciary’s decision to arrest a close ally, former Tehran prosecutor Saeed Mortazavi. No reason has been given for the detention of Mr Mortazavi, though reports suggest it may be linked to a long-running dispute between the president and the speaker of parliament, Ali Larijani. Mr Mortazavi was suspended from his judicial post over the deaths of protesters in custody following the Iranian presidential election in 2009, which opponents of Mr Ahmadinejad say was rigged.

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