Cairo, Asharq Al-Awsat – Egypt yesterday rejected the Iranian criticism of President Mohamed Mursi’s speech at the Non-Aligned Movement summit in Tehran, during which he slammed the Syrian regime as “oppressive” and urged support for rebels seeking to topple al-Assad.
An Egyptian diplomatic source, talking to Asharq Al-Awsat on the condition of anonymity, stressed that “what was put forward in the Egyptian president’s speech on Syria was in order to prevent bloodshed and find a political solution.”
He added “Egypt rejects military intervention in Syria and is looking for a political solution that will preserve the Syrian state.” The Egyptian diplomatic source also asserted that “Egypt has not paid any attention to these criticisms.”
The Iranian parliament’s Middle East adviser, Hossein Sheikholeslam, criticized President Mursi’s comments on Iran, saying “unfortunately Mr. Mursi did not have the necessary political maturity to lead a Non-Aligned Movement summit.” Egypt has chaired the Non-Aligned Movement over the past three years, with this position being taken over by Iran’s President Ahmadinejad at the beginning of the Tehran summit.
Sheikholeslam, who is a former Iranian Ambassador to Syria, told Iran’s state-run Mehr News Agency, that “he [Mursi] committed a big mistake by availing himself of his position [as outgoing Non-Aligned Movement chairman] and expressing the standpoints of Egypt while ignoring all Non-Aligned Movement principles.”
The Egyptian president, speaking during the opening ceremony of the Non-Aligned Movement summit in Tehran on Thursday, said that “solidarity with the Syrian people against an oppressive regime that has lost its legitimacy is a moral obligation.” His comments sparked a walkout from the Syrian delegation.
Sheikholeslam was the first Iranian official to comment on Mursi’s speech, and in fact was the first Iranian official to acknowledge this speech, and its criticism of the al-Assad regime.
Iran’s state-run Radio and Television services also came under fire for reportedly tampering with the translation of the Egyptian president’s speech. Millions of Iranians watching the Non-Aligned Movement summit opening ceremony on television or listening on the radio were unaware of the controversy, after Persian translators swapped the word “Syria” for “Bahrain” in Mursi’s speech.
Conservative Iranian website Farda went even further, quoting the Egyptian president as saying that he hoped Syria’s “popular regime” would survive, and calling on the Syrian people to “resist the will of foreign plotters”.
Whilst Mursi’s speech was the subject of criticism from Iran, US State Department spokesman Patrick Ventrell welcomed the Egyptian president’s comments on Syria, describing them as being “very clear and very strong.”
He added “we share Egypt’s goal to see an end to the al-Assad regime, and an end to the bloodshed, and a transition to a democratic Syria that respects human rights.”