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Egypt-Iran Relations Reach New High With Mubarak's Planned Visit to Tehran - 2004-01-06

Egyptian officials say President Hosni Mubarak will travel to Tehran next month to underline the restoration of diplomatic relations between Egypt and Iran, after a break of more than 20 years. The decision to make the trip was made after a key Egyptian demand was met by Tehran's city council.

The warming of ties between Iran and Egypt is rapidly intensifying, after more than two decades of almost non-existent relations.

The latest development followed the Tehran City Council officially changing the name of a street, which had honored the man who assassinated Egyptian President Anwar Sadat in 1981. The street name was changed to Intifada Avenue, in recognition of the Palestinian uprising.

Egyptian officials demanded the name change before they would consider restoring full diplomatic relations with Tehran.

Following the city council vote, a senior Egyptian official said President Hosni Mubarak would travel to Tehran next month to participate in an economic summit.

Iran broke relations with Egypt following the 1979 Islamic revolution because Egypt had signed the Camp David peace accord with Israel and provided shelter to the ousted Shah of Iran. Relations further deteriorated when Egypt supported Iraq in its 1980 through 1988 war with Iran.

But in recent weeks, Iran has made diplomatic overtures to Egypt that resulted in a meeting between Iranian President Mohammed Khatami and President Mubarak during a conference last month in Geneva.

According to the spokesman for the 22-member Arab League, Hossam Zaki, the warming of relations between the two countries will have a positive effect on the entire region.

"It is a significant event in the region taking into consideration that the relations between those two big countries, regional powers, has been varying from non-existent to bad for about two decades now," he said. "And, any warming up of the relations is going to be a significant improvement on the whole atmosphere in the region, and I hope this will be for the better of the Middle East as a whole."

Iran's Foreign Ministry spokesman Hamid Reza Asefi said Iran wants to restore relations with Egypt, in part, because it will help the Palestinian people.

Mr. Asefi said the Islamic republic was making a positive overture to Egypt in light of, what he called, the new regional situation and positive signals on the part of the Egyptian leadership.

Senior Egyptian government officials have told VOA that Cairo may appoint an ambassador to Tehran before Mr. Mubarak's trip to Tehran.