x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

Cleric scolds Ahmadinejad, bystander throws shoe at Iran's president

Ahmed Al Tayyeb, the grand imam of Cairo's Al Azhar, Sunni Islam's highest seat of learning, also denounced what he described as the 'spread of Shiism in Sunni lands' after meeting Mr Ahmadinejad.

CAIRO // Egypt's top cleric has told Mahmoud Ahmadinejad not to interfere in the affairs of Bahrain or other Gulf states, and to uphold the rights of his country's Sunni minority.

Mr Ahmadinejad, the first Iranian president to visit Egypt in more than 30 years, was given a red-carpet welcome by his Egyptian counterpart, Mohammed Morsi, on Tuesday at the start of his landmark visit but was later chided by the top Sunni cleric.

Ahmed Al Tayyeb, the grand imam of Cairo's Al Azhar, Sunni Islam's highest seat of learning, also denounced what he described as the "spread of Shiism in Sunni lands".

Sheikh Al Tayyeb, who made the remarks in a statement after meeting Mr Ahmadinejad, demanded "the Iranian president respect Bahrain as a brotherly Arab nation, and not interfere in the affairs of Gulf states".

In October, Bahrain summoned an Iranian envoy to protest against Tehran's "interference" in the Gulf state's internal affairs. Iran has supported protests by Bahrain's Shiite majority against the Sunni monarchy.

Following Tuesday's meeting, Mr Ahmadinejad gave a news conference at Al Azhar in which he said he "came from Iran to say that Egypt and the Egyptian people have their place in the heart of the Iranian people".

"I hope this visit will be a new beginning for solidarity between our two people," he said.

But senior Al Azhar cleric Hassan Al Shafie, who spoke after Mr Ahmadinejad, launched into a tirade against "some Shiites" for insulting some of the Prophet Mohammed's companions as the Iranian president listened with noticeable unease.

In the evening, Mr Ahmadinejad was booed by a man who also tried to throw his shoe at the Iranian president as he left the Al Hussein mosque following prayers, according to a witness.

The man also pushed a bodyguard, but he was quickly dealt with and Mr Ahmadinejad was able to enter his car.

In front of the mosque, four youths waved placards scrawled with slogans against Iran over its support for the regime of Syrian president, Bashar Al Assad, in its 22-month conflict with Sunni-led rebels.