Egypt's President Attacks Syria in Speech Given From Iran

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In the first visit to Iran by an Egyptian leader since the 1979 revolution, new president Mohammed Morsi took on his host country's closest ally, calling on Syria's Bashar al-Assad to step down. Sitting next to Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad during the opening remarks of the Non-Aligned Movement conference on Thursday, Morsi delivered stinging criticism of the Syrian government, saying that the world has a "moral duty" to support the Syrian opposition "against an oppressive regime that has lost its legitimacy."

Morsi called on the 120 nations present to "support a peaceful transition" to democratic rule, acknowledging that violence in Syria will not end without outside intervention, adding "the bloodletting in Syria is the responsibility of all of us." His remarks led the Syria delegation to walk out of the conference in the middle of his speech.

It was an interesting way to resume relations between the two countries after more than 30 years of formal silence. Tehran cut off diplomatic ties with Egypt after former president Anwar Sadat signed the Camp David peace treaty with Israel in 1979. Morsi — who owes his current job to another revolution, and should be included to support others — is now tasked with bringing the two nations back together, but is clearly not going to start by ceding Iran more influence over the Middle East.

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The Non-Aligned Movement conference itself is a touchy subject now that Iran had taken over the rotating leadership position (from Egypt) and serving as the host of this conference. Their supreme leader, Ayatollah Sayyid Ali Khamenei, opened the event by attacking the United Nations Security Council, the "Zionist wolves" of Israel, and their American allies. Their foreign minister called for a "war tribunal" against Israel. They insisted that their country will never seek to acquire a nuclear bomb, even as newspapers report that their most prominent nuclear scientist has restarted work that was abandoned years ago. All this at a gathering of nations featuring visits from U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and the ceremonial head of state of North Korea.

Thomas Friedman lambasted Morsi in The New York Times for simply showing up in Iran, claiming that the NAM event was a stage-managed affair meant to show its people that it isn't a country being isolated and sanctioned out of existence by the international community. While Friedman and others might still be able to criticize Morsi for standing along side Iran's leaders and playing nice, he must deserve some credit for taking shots at their friend while standing in their own backyard.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.