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Maher says Camp David an issue of the past between Egypt and Iran

Egypt's Foreign Minister Ahmad Maher said in Cairo on Sunday that Cairo considers the issue of Camp David as belonging to the past, stressing that Egypt is now eager to promote ties with the Islamic Republic, IRNA reported.

Maher, in an interview with IRNA and the Central News Bureau, said Egypt considers the case of the Camp David Accords as closed, stressing that the interest of Tehran and Cairo today is in the promotion of mutual cooperation.

"I don't think using the issue of Camp David will be useful, because it does not exist anymore and is merely a thing of the past," he said.

"There have been many changes and I believe that this case between Iran and Egypt has already been closed... What exists now is the interest of Iran and Egypt to work with each other."

The Islamic Republic severed its ties with Egypt after former Egyptian president Anwar Sadat signed the Camp David peace treaty with the Zionist regime and harbored Iran's defunct Shah. The two countries now run interest sections through foreign embassies in Cairo and Tehran, operated by Iranian and Egyptian diplomats.

Maher highlighted the need for Iran and Egypt to struggle together for the establishment of justice in the occupied territories of Palestine, and for promoting peace and stability in the Middle East. "Therefore, there is no reason to stop because of what does not exist anymore and has become part of the past," he said. "What is important is that we will continue our assistance to Palestine and we know that Iran will also help the Palestinian people."

Elsewhere in his remarks, Maher termed the talks between Iran's President Mohammad Khatami with his Egyptian counterpart Hosni Mubarak in Geneva as very important.

He stressed that the meeting of the Iranian and Egyptian presidents had been an opportunity for them to discuss issues relating to bilateral relations and international developments. Khatami and Mubarak met in Geneva last December on the sidelines of a UN technology summit.

Iran said later it had invited the Egyptian president to attend a summit of eight developing Islamic countries (D-8) in Tehran in February.

Khatami later told reporters that he had held comprehensive talks with Mubarak in Geneva, and expressed hope that the talks would put an end to years of estrangement.

He, however, admitted that there exist differences between the two strong Muslim countries over 'political and ideological issues'. "Both Iranian and Egyptian official are determined and willing to remove obstacles on the way (of rapprochement). I hope the negotiations will bear favorable fruits," Khatami told reporters after submitting a draft budget bill to the Majlis.

He also hoped that Egyptians' worries will be removed and "we would not have to relegate any of our values and principles". Maher highlighted the historical and cultural affinities between Iran and Egypt, stressing that he considered the promotion of relations between Iran and Egypt as "a natural development".

He said it is natural that both countries reach a point to use their cultural and historical affinities to forge a sustainable political relation.

"Therefore, I believe what has been carried out over the past years has been making groups in cultural, economic and regional areas that all have had a natural growth," the Egyptian minister said. "This growth has been based on the determination of the Iranian and Egyptian nations and has also been in line with the interests of both countries, as well as those of the whole region and the Muslim world".

Maher said Tehran and Cairo both advocate peace, security and justice, and that each time there has been a meeting between the officials of the two countries, there has been an understanding of the many mutual common points.

He added that the Iranian and Egyptian officials in their meetings have always stressed that these common points must be reinforced for the sake of the interests of their respective nations, as well as the aspiration for peace, justice and security.

Maher said Iran and Egypt have for many years taken the initiative at the United Nations to call for making the Middle East a region free from weapons of mass destruction (WMDs).

"What is important is that such cooperation was carried out when we had no official contact with each other," he said. "Therefore, what has happened has been a natural process and the meeting of the Iranian and Egyptian presidents was the significant point of that process."

Maher further recalled the efforts by Iran and Egypt at the United Nations to urge the international community to pressure Israel to sign the nuclear safeguards agreements and stop its nuclear weapons program.

"Iran and Egypt from the beginning took the leadership of this issue, and had a strong cooperation to that effect, as well as other areas," he said.

"Iran and Egypt are now preparing the ground to cement their relations, and these efforts must continue."

Maher further hailed Iran's decision to sign the additional protocol of the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) as an "important step", stressing that other countries should also take Iran's lead in that connection.

He said Israel should not be allowed to challenge the world in the area of its nuclear activities while the world is struggling for the elimination of WMDs and the implementation of an international supervision on them.

"I believe the struggle to universalize a treaty that would condemn the WMDs will continue thanks to the cooperation of Iran as well as other countries that share a common viewpoint in that area," Maher said.

"There should be no exception to that effect."

... Payvand News - 1/5/04 ... --

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