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Iran Says It Is Close to Restoring Ties With Egypt

Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki says Iran and Egypt are close to restoring full diplomatic relations, after severing political ties nearly three decades ago. VOA Reporter Aya Batrawy has more from our Middle East bureau in Cairo.

Egypt and Iran appear to be publicly moving closer to reestablishing full diplomatic relations, after a nearly 30-year break.

Iran Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki announced in a press conference that the two countries are on the "verge of resuming political ties."

The announcement by the Iranian foreign minister follows the first direct talks between Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in a telephone call last week.

The countries have not had full diplomatic ties since 1979. But they have shared some diplomatic communiqué during the years, despite not having embassies or ambassadors in one another's capitals.

An assistant professor of political science at Cairo University, Amal Hamada, said both countries and the region have much to gain if Egypt and Iran enhance their diplomatic relationship.

"Egypt, Iran, and Saudi Arabia are the pillar states in the region and if we can, as Arabs and Muslims, assure a certain level of understanding and cooperation between the three pillar states then I think the chances for stability in the region is more enhanced in terms of Iraq, the situation in Palestine and even in Lebanon," said Hamada.

Iranian diplomats met with their Egyptian counterparts this week in Cairo to discuss ways to help relief efforts in Gaza and to control the border shared by Gaza and Egypt.

But according to Hamada, it is unlikely that Egypt and Iran will normalize relations any time soon due to lingering security issues. But she stresses that the public gesture is significant.

"Just having the intention and the willingness to announce this in public might pave the way for a better relationship between the two states, even if we do not formalize the relationship," said Hamada.

Iran broke diplomatic ties with Egypt nearly three decades ago, shortly after Egypt became the first Arab country to sign a peace treaty with Israel and then allowed the deposed Shah of Iran into the country.

Despite efforts by Tehran over the years to normalize diplomatic relations with Cairo, Egypt has been reluctant to do so and had requested that a street in Tehran named after the assassin of Egyptian President Anwar Sadat, who signed the peace treaty with Israel, be changed to another name.