Apr 04 2013
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Egypt plays down concerns about Iranians’ visits
Thursday, Apr 04, 2013
Cairo: A senior Egyptian official on Thursday played down concerns that Iranians, allowed to come to Egypt after a ban of more than three decades, will create sectarian tension.
“These fears are exaggerated and unjustified,” said Tourism Minister Hesham Zaazou. “Iranians visit Turkey and we have not heard that Turks have become Shiites... We should have greater confidence in ourselves.”
The first group of Iranian tourists arrived in Egypt this week amid protests from ultra-conservative Islamist Egyptians, who claim that Iran will use the trips to promote Shiism. Salafists plan a protest outside the Iranian section office in Cairo on Friday.
Zaazou, who visited Tehran in late February, said that Iranians’ trips are limited to holidaymaking areas outside Cairo and that they are not allowed to visit mosques revered by Shiites in Egypt.
Egypt hopes that an estimated 5 million Iranians will visit the country every year, helping to revitalise its sagging tourism industry hard hit by street turmoil that has erupted since Husni Mubarak’s fall more than two years ago.
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad made a historic visit to Egypt in February when he announced that there will be no visa requirement for Egyptians to enter Iran.
Since Mubarak’s ouster, Tehran has been courting Cairo to restore their full relations, severed in 1980. Iranian leaders have been encouraged by the rise of the Muslim Brotherhood to power in post-Mubarak Egypt.
By Ramadan Al Sherbini Correspondent
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