Damascus accuses Morsy of inciting bloodshed in Syria

Damascus on Thursday accused President Mohamed Morsy of inciting bloodshed in Syria, after the Egyptian president described the Syrian regime as "oppressive" in a speech to the Non-Aligned Movement in Tehran, AFP reported.

Syrian state TV quoted Foreign Minister Walid al-Muallem as saying the Syrian delegation withdrew during Morsy's speech to express "rejection to what the speech included, of incitement to continue shedding Syrian blood."

Morsy's visit to Iran was the first by an Egyptian president since Iran's Islamic revolution in 1979.

Iranian state television broadcast live pictures of Morsy's red-carpet welcome at Tehran's Mehrabad airport. The summit is set to conclude on Friday.

In his speech, Morsy said it was an "ethical duty" to support the Syrian people against the "oppressive regime" in Damascus, referring to close Iranian ally Bashar al-Assad, Reuters reported from an Al Jazeera television broadcast.

"We all have to announce our full solidarity with the struggle of those seeking freedom and justice in Syria, and translate this sympathy into a clear political vision that supports a peaceful transition to a democratic system of rule that reflects the demands of the Syrian people for freedom," he said.

Iran has presented its tenure of the Non-Aligned Movement as the failure of the United States to isolate it from the rest of the world, a message its most powerful figure, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, will press home in an address to around 35 visiting heads of state on Thursday morning.

Diplomatic relations between Cairo and Tehran broke down immediately after Iran's revolution over Egypt's support for the overthrown Shah and its peace agreement with Israel.

As president, Morsy has so far refused to address the issue of whether ties would be upgraded with Iran, but has indicated he would pursue a more balanced foreign policy.

Analysts say Morsy's brief visit is designed to avoid any snub to Iran but improving relations with Tehran in the near future would send the wrong message to the United States and Israel.

Last week, Morsy spoke of forming a contact group to resolve the crisis in Syria, comprising Egypt, Iran, Saudi Arabia and Turkey, an initiative the Iranian leadership is keen to pursue.

This article is an edited combination of Reuters and AFP wire stories

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