Shoe thrown at Iranian president Ahmadinejad in Egypt


Egyptian security guards seized a man who tried to hit Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad with a shoe when he visited an ancient mosque in downtown Cairo.

A video of the incident shows a man shouting "coward" before striking out. It is not clear what the motive was Ė some reports suggested it was against Iran's support for Syria's government. Ahmadinejad was forced to flee after the incident.

Later, anti-Iranian protesters raised their shoes up while blocking the main gates to Al-Azhar, the Sunni world's most prestigious religious institution, where Egypt's most prominent cleric chided Ahmadinejad for interfering in the affairs of Sunni nations.

The protests illustrate the limits to how far and how quickly Egypt's Islamist President Mohammed Morsi can go in reaching out to Iran: His Sunni allies at home view mainly Shiite Iran as a bitter rival, and Cairo can't afford to alienate Washington and Gulf Arab states who seek to isolate Tehran.

President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's visit to Cairo on Tuesday, the first by an Iranian leader in more than three decades, highlights efforts by Egypt's Islamist leader to thaw long frigid ties between the two regional heavyweights.

Although the official welcome was warm, there was unscripted discord from Sunni protesters angry over Iran's support for the regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad, as well as decades of sectarian animosity between Shiite-led Iran and the region's Sunni majority.

The three-day visit, centered around an Islamic summit, was an attempt by Morsi to strike an independent foreign policy and reassert Egypt's historic regional leadership role following the ouster of Hosni Mubarak, a close US ally who shared Washington's deep suspicions of Tehran. Such a visit by an Iranian leader would have been unthinkable under Mubarak.

Morsi gave Ahmadinejad a red-carpet welcome on the tarmac at Cairo airport, shaking his hand, hugging and exchanging a kiss on each check.

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