EGYPT cautiously welcomed a gesture by Iranian officials to resume dialogue between the two countries. "We are keen to have good relations with all countries, including Iran, which is an important country," Foreign Minister Ahmed Maher said on Tuesday. However, he warned, "the matter requires more than talk." Maher was responding to statements by an Iranian official emphasising the importance of normalising ties with a country such as Egypt. "To improve the situation of the Muslim world and strengthen unity among Islamic countries, it is necessary to normalise relations between Iran and Egypt -- like two brother countries," Ali Rabie, adviser to Iranian President Mohamed Khatami, said on Friday. "Historically, Egypt is the country closest to Iran, and considering the long-term interests of the Islamic world, it is necessary to move towards normalisation of relations," Rabie added.
Egypt and Iran cut ties after Egypt signed a peace treaty with Israel in 1978. Over the past few years, the two sides have attempted to restore dialogue, but Maher said that while Egypt welcomes the resumption of ties with Iran, divisions in the Iranian government have prevented it from taking serious steps in that regard.
MA'MOUN El-Hodeibi, who for the past two weeks has been leading the banned Muslim Brotherhood organisation, was officially named as the group's sixth Supreme Guide. Eighty-one-year-old El- Hodeibi was the only contender for the post, which became vacant after the death of Mustafa Mashhour last month. During the past two weeks, Brotherhood members declined to confirm news of El-Hodeibi's selection to the group's most important position. They pointed out that "procedural matters should take their due course."
On 27 November, the final procedures for the selection of the Supreme Guide were conducted and a decision was finally reached following consultation by the group's shura [advisory] council. According to the Brotherhood statutes, El- Hodeibi will serve six years in office after which a decision should be made whether he should stand elections.
In press interviews, El-Hodeibi stressed, "no radical changes are likely to take place in the group's policies." But observers say that the task which is likely to put his leadership to test is the selection of two deputies. Speculation is rife that El-Hodeibi will have to respond to appeals urging him to fill the positions from among the younger members of the group.
A SECURITY official at the Ministry of Interior said on Monday that the interruption of the American ambassador's entourage on the Suez highway by a pick-up truck on Saturday was not a security threat. "There are no indications that the ambassador was being followed or targeted," said the official. "Security authorities are tracking down the runaway [truck]." He added that the truck was merely trying to overtake the ambassador's convoy which was returning from Sharm El-Sheikh to Cairo. The two met again by coincidence at a gas station where they were both refuelling. When the ambassador's security officers approached the truck because its licence plate numbers were smudged, the truck driver panicked and sped away.
US Embassy spokesman Philip Frayne said that Ambassador David Welch was travelling from Sharm El-Sheikh to the Suez Canal when a pick-up truck tried, but failed, to slip between his car and police bodyguards, and later reappeared at the gas station.
INTERIOR Minister Habib El-Adli met on Monday with his Palestinian counterpart, Hani Al-Hassan, who was in Cairo leading a delegation of Palestinian police officers. The two sides discussed various means to support and develop co-operation between Egypt and the PA in the field of law enforcement.
After the meeting, Al-Hassan praised Egyptian efforts in training Palestinian security officers to prepare them to work in the various police sectors. For his part, El- Adli confirmed Egypt's commitment to continue supporting the development of Palestinian police forces and enhancing their efficiency.
UN Protocols protest
ISRAEL continued its protest campaign on Monday against the Egyptian television series Horseman Without a Horse describing it as anti-Semitic. Israel's ambassador to the UN, Yaakov Levy, delivered a letter to the UN Commissioner for Human Rights in Geneva asking that Egypt be reprimanded for broadcasting the series, saying that it was inspired by the 19th century Protocols of the Elders of Zion.
"A programme based on such anti- Semitic propaganda can only encourage animosity and violence, in direct contradiction of the goals of the UN and other humanitarian organisations," Levy said. "I appeal to you to make a clear-cut statement to the Egyptian government and the international community as a whole that articles, interviews and films, especially a lengthy series of this nature, stand in stark contrast to Egypt's obligations as a member of the UN and as a member of the Commission for Human Rights," he added.
For the past few weeks, Israel, joined by the US, has called on the Egyptian government to halt the broadcasting of the 41-part series. Egyptian officials have insisted, however, that the series contains no anti- Semitic material.
The Protocols have been discredited as a Czarist forgery, disseminated with the aim of fomenting resentment against Russian Jews.
Compiled by Soha Abdelaty