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Egyptian President Denounces Syria Regime During Iran Visit

Iranian President Mahmud Ahmadinejad (right) embraces his Egyptian counterpart, Muhammad Morsi, as they attend the opening of a Nonalligned Movement summit in Tehran on August 30
Egypt's President Muhammad Morsi has denounced the Syrian regime as "oppressive" and called for a peaceful transition to democracy in the war-torn country.

Speaking on August 30 at the Nonaligned Movement summit in the Iranian capital Tehran, Morsi said the world had an "ethical duty" to support the struggle of the Syrian people and called for "active intervention" to halt the violence.

"Our solidarity with the struggle of the Syrian people against an oppressive regime that has lost its legitimacy is an ethical duty because it is a political and strategic necessity," Morsi said.

"We all have to announce our full solidarity with the struggle of those seeking freedom and justice in Syria, and translate this sympathy into a clear political vision that supports a peaceful transition to a democratic system of rule that reflects the demands of the Syrian people for freedom," he said.

Media reports say Morsi's remarks prompted the Syrian delegation to walk out of the meeting hall.

Syria's Foreign Minister Walid Muallem said Morsi's speech amounted to "interference in Syria's internal affairs" and "incites continued bloodshed in Syria."

Morsi's visit to Iran marks the first by an Egyptian leader to the Islamic republic in three decades.

Morsi took power at the end of June as Egypt's first freely elected civilian president, more than one year after longtime ruler Hosni Mubarak was ousted amid mass demonstrations.

UN Security Council Convenes

Egypt and Iran are divided over the Syrian crisis.

Shi'ite-led Iran is a key ally of the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, which is led by members of the Alawite community, an offshoot of Shi'ite Islam.

Tehran has vigorously opposed any move toward foreign intervention in the conflict.

Egypt, meanwhile, has expressed backing for the Sunni-led rebels seeking to overthrow the government.

Iran's deputy foreign minister later said that Morsi met Iran's President Mahmud Ahmadinejad on the sidelines of the nonaligned conference on August 31.

Deputy Foreign Minister Hossein Abdullahian told Iran's Arabic-language broadcaster al-Alam that the two leaders "emphasized the need to solve the Syria crisis via diplomacy and prevent foreign intervention."

He said Morsi and Ahmadinehad also discussed ways to boost ties between their two nations.

Countries on the United Nations Security Council are scheduled to meet later on August 31 at UN headquarters in New York to discuss the Syria crisis.

The Security Council remains deeply split over how to respond to the Syria conflict.

Russia and China have vetoed resolutions on Syria on several occasions, citing opposition to any action that could be seen as regime change imposed from outside.

France, which currently chairs the Security Council, convened the meeting on August 30 in the hope that council members will agree on measures to ease the humanitarian crisis in Syria.

The meeting will also be attended by ministers from Syria's neighbors Turkey, Lebanon, and Jordan.

Diplomats, however, have been quoted as saying that less than half the council members are sending ministers.

Of the permanent, veto-holding Security Council members -- the United States, China, Russia, Britain, and France -- only the French and the British foreign ministers are expected to attend.

With reporting by AP, Reuters, and AFP
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