- Middle East/North Africa
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said ahead of a visit to Cairo that Egypt and Iran both enjoy "distinguished standings" on an international level that allowed them to influence regional and international issues.
Speaking to reporters at Mehrabad International Airport in Tehran Tuesday, just before leaving for Cairo, the Iranian president was quoted by Iranian news agency Fars news as saying that both countries should reach a consensus over regional issues, especially given the "fundamental changes" that the Middle East is witnessing.
Ahmadinejad had said on Monday that Iran would defend Egypt and Saudi Arabia against any attack, stressing the importance of relations with the two countries ahead of a visit to Cairo on Tuesday.
The region’s geopolitics will change if Egypt and Iran adopt a common stance on the Palestinian cause, Ahmadinejad said in an interview with Lebanese satellite channel Al Mayadeen. He added that his country would side with Egypt and Saudi Arabia against any attack the same way it sided with Afghanistan and Iraq, without specifying any attacks he thought were imminent. He also criticized Sunni-Shia divisions as "a colonial plot."
The Iranian president added that both countries should agree to "liberate Palestine entirely," claiming that Iran is always ready to defend Palestinians while also claiming that it does not interfere in the domestic affairs of any country.
Ahmadinejad made his statements hours before he was to make the first visit to Egypt by an Iranian president since 1980, when relations were severed between the two countries. Then-President Anwar Sadat allowed Mohamed Reza Pahlavi, the former Shah of Iran who was overthrown during the 1979 revolution there, to enter Egypt for medical treatment, and Pahlavi was buried in Cairo after passing away there.
Ahmadinejad is due to meet with Al-Azhar Grand Sheikh Ahmed al-Tayyeb Tuesday, and will attend an Organisation of Islamic Cooperation summit Wednesday and Thursday.