Iran Invites Egypt Al-Azhar University

A02029286.jpgTEHRAN (FNA)- Iran has made an unprecedented request for Cairo’s Al-Azhar University, Sunni Islam’s highest seat of learning, to open a branch in Tehran.

“We have asked officially, but so far we have had no response,” Karim Azizi, spokesman at the Iranian interests section in Cairo, said.

There is no Iranian embassy in the Egyptian capital since diplomatic relations were cut almost 30 years ago.

Azizi told AFP the request to Al-Azhar – founded in 975 AD – was aimed at “reinforcing Iranian-Egyptian relations and bringing closer together the different Islamic confessions, especially Sunnis and Shiites.”

Iran has distanced itself from a TV film “Assassination of a Pharaoh” whose broadcast followed by Egyptian reaction summoning Iran’s envoy in Cairo and shutdown of Iranian satellite TV channel.

Iran said the TV film does not represent Tehran’s position, hailing relations between the two Middle East heavyweights as “based on friendship and brotherhood.”

Diplomatic ties were severed in 1980 a year after Iran’s Islamic Revolution in protest at Egypt’s recognizing the Israeli regime, hosting the deposed shah and supporting Baghdad during the 1980-1988 Iran-Iraq war.

Relations warmed recently, with both states signaling a willingness to restore ties. In January, President Hosni Mubarak met Iran’s Parliament Speaker Gholam Ali Haddad Adel, the first such high-level talks in almost three decades.

Mohammed Sayed Said, editor of the independent Al-Badil newspaper, described the Iranian initiative as “a very smart move”.

“The general feeling at the moment is that we (Muslims) are the target of destruction, so we should do whatever is necessary to restore unity.”

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