Iran uses Hezbollah to enter Egypt, claims official

Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Abul Gheit accused Iran of using the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah to gain a foothold in Egypt in a newspaper interview published on Tuesday.

“Iran, and Iran’s followers, want Egypt to become a maid of honour for the crowned Iranian queen when she enters the Middle East,” Abul Gheit told the pan-Arab daily Asharq Al-Awsat.

Historically tense relations between Egypt and Iran have deteriorated since Egypt last week announced the arrest of 49 members of a cell belonging to the Shi’ite Islamist group Hezbollah accused of plotting attacks in the country.

Security officials have since said that only 25 members of the cell were arrested, and 24 remained at large. Egyptian police are scouring the central Sinai peninsula for the remaining suspects.

The manhunt has prompted the Israeli military to put its troops on high alert along the border with the Sinai peninsula, an Israeli security official in Jerusalem told Agence France-Presse.

“I wish I could take pictures of all those who are writing in Iran and elsewhere ... I wish I could see their eyes and their faces when their lower lips drop in astonishment at what the ...
public prosecutor will include in his report,” Abul Gheit said.

“[Iran] used [Hezbollah] to gain a presence in Egypt and to say to Egyptians: we are here,” he added.

Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah said on Friday that one of the men arrested, a Lebanese identified as Sami Shehab, was a Hezbollah agent charged with smuggling weapons to Palestinian militants in Gaza.

But Nasrallah denied that the cell—which he said amounted to no more than 10 members—planned to carry out attacks in Egypt.

Hezbollah, backed by Iran and Syria, is a vocal supporter of Hamas, the Islamist rulers of Gaza, and has lashed out at Egypt for closing its border crossing with the Palestinian enclave.

Regional heavyweights Egypt and Iran broke off diplomatic relations a year after Islamist revolutionaries overthrew the pro-Western Shah of Iran in 1979.

Iran opposed Egypt’s 1979 peace treaty with Israel and named a street in Tehran after the assassin of then Egyptian president Anwar Sadat, who was killed by an Egyptian Islamist militant in 1981.—Sapa-AFP

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