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Egypt's Top Cleric Rebuffs Iranian President on Gulf

Egypt's top Muslim cleric told visiting Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad Tuesday that his Shi'ite-led government must refrain from interfering in the affairs of Gulf Arab states and must give full rights to Sunnis living in Iran.

Sheikh Ahmed al-Tayeb, the grand imam of the al-Azhar mosque, also urged Mr. Ahmadinejad to "respect Bahrain as a sisterly Arab state" and rejected "the spread of Shi'ism" in Sunni countries.

The two met on the first visit by an Iranian head of state to Egypt since the 1979 Islamic Revolution in Iran. The countries severed relations when Cairo offered exile to Iran's deposed shah. The relationship deteriorated further following Egypt's peace agreement with Israel.



Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi greeted Mr. Ahmadinejad with a handshake and a kiss on each cheek as he stepped off his plane at the Cairo airport.

Security officials said the two leaders held a 20-minute talk that focused on the civil war in Syria. Iran is Damascus' closest regional ally, while Egypt is among those that have called on Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to step down.

The Iranian president will attend a summit of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, which begins Wednesday in Cairo.

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