Egyptian President-Elect Mohammed Morsi has denied voicing interest in restoring ties with Iran during an interview with an Iranian news agency. The comments came as Morsi pushed ahead with efforts to form a government.
A spokesman for the newly elected Islamist president told Egypt's official MENA news agency on Monday that a controversial interview with Iran's Fars news agency had never taken place.
"Mr. Morsi did not give any interview to Fars and everything that this agency has published is without foundation," the spokesman said.
The Iranian news agency published the apparent interview with Morsi on Monday, in which he said he was seeking to expand diplomatic ties with Iran. It reported that the president said an expansion of bilateral ties with Iran would create "an effective strategic balance" in the region and was high on his agenda.
Such actions would be in direct opposition to western efforts to isolate Tehran over its disputed nuclear program. It is considered unlikely, however, that Morsi would carry out any major foreign policy reversals so early in his term.
Fars said it spoke to Morsi just hours ahead of the announcement of Egypt's landmark presidential election result on Sunday, which saw him defeat former general Ahmed Shafik. The new leader, who is backed by the Islamist Muslim Brotherhood, is set to push ahead with efforts to form a government on Tuesday.
Morsi victory welcomed
Iran congratulated Morsi over his election win on Monday. According to Iranian state television, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said he emphasized "expanding bilateral ties and strengthening the friendship between the two nations."
In Washington, meanwhile, US State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said the United States looks forward to holding talks with Egypt's first democratically elected president. She said discussions would relate to Egypt's relationship with Iran and its "upholding of all of its international obligations, including obligations vis-à-vis Iran."
Egyptian relations with Iran broke down in 1980 following Egypt's formal recognition of Israel and Iran's 1979 Islamic Revolution.
ccp/ncy (AFP, AP, Reuters)