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Iranian President Visits Egypt as Diplomatic Relations Thaw

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad received a warm official welcome in Cairo Tuesday, on the first trip by an Iranian leader to Egypt since Iran's 1979 Islamic revolution.

Egypt's new president, Mohamed Morsi, welcomed the Iranian leader in a red carpet ceremony that marked a clear departure from decades of frigid ties between the regional powers. The Iranian leader is set to attend a three-day regional summit that begins Wednesday in the capital.

Egypt's MENA news agency said the two leaders discussed "ways to resolve the [Syrian] crisis and end Syrian bloodshed without military intervention," as well as ways to improve bilateral ties.

Egypt and Iran severed relations in 1979, when Cairo offered exile to Iran's deposed shah. The relationship deteriorated further following Egypt's peace agreement with Israel, and remained frozen through the three-decade rule of former Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak.

Mr. Ahmadinejad -- the political head of the Shi'ite Islamic republic -- also met with Sunni Sheikh Ahmed al-Tayeb, the grand imam of the al-Azhar mosque who heads one of the oldest seats of learning in the Sunni world.

The cleric told the Iranian president that his Shi'ite-led government must stop interfering in the affairs of Gulf Arab states and give full rights to Sunnis living in Iran.

He also urged Mr. Ahmadinejad to "respect Bahrain as a sisterly Arab state" and rejected "the spread of Shi'ism" in Sunni countries.