Reuters: Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit mocked the military records of Iran and the Lebanese Shi'ite Muslim movement Hezbollah in an escalating war of words over Egypt's cooperation with Israel in the blockade of Gaza.
CAIRO, Dec 30 (Reuters) – Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit mocked the military records of Iran and the Lebanese Shi'ite Muslim movement Hezbollah in an escalating war of words over Egypt's cooperation with Israel in the blockade of Gaza.
Aboul Gheit, in an interview with Egyptian television broadcast on Monday night, said Hezbollah destroyed Lebanon in 2006 and that its Katyusha rockets and rocket-propelled grenades were nothing compared to the Egyptian army.
Addressing Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah, he said: "You are a man who used to enjoy respect, but you have insulted the Egyptian people."
The Egyptian minister also attacked Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who criticised Arab governments on Monday for their lack of response to Israeli raids which have killed some 348 Palestinians in Gaza.
"It's as if hundreds of thousands of Iranians shed their blood over the last 30 years," he said, referring to the Egyptian view that its army bore the brunt of the suffering in wars with Israel for the sake of the Palestinians.
Egypt fought four wars with Israel between 1948 and 1973, losing tens of thousands of soldiers. In 1979, it became the first Arab country to make peace with the Jewish state.
"There are Iranian motives driving Arab parties to play in the interests of Iran," the minister added.
Nasrallah, whose guerrilla forces withstood the Israeli invasion of south Lebanon in 2006, angered the Egyptian government with a speech on Sunday calling on Egyptians to take to the streets in protest at Egyptian policy.
Aboul Gheit replied: "Egypt is big and strong and no one outside it can move anything inside it. Egypt moves when the Egyptian people and the Egyptian leadership ask it to."
The minister also lashed out at accusations that Egypt has obstructed the delivery of emergency aid from Arab governments to the people of Gaza through the Gaza-Egypt border.
"The allegations are many, the injustice is obvious and the plotting is clear," he said.
But he later called for calm between Arabs. "There is much pulling and pushing in the Arab arena which requires much wisdom and calm for us to protect the (Arab) nation, which is going through extremely difficult circumstances," he said.
He said plans for an Arab summit should wait until Arab foreign ministers have met in Cairo on Wednesday.
"Let's concentrate on the work of the foreign ministers," he said. "If we do not succeed in that, then we can look at other dimensions in the situation through the summit." (Writing by Jonathan Wright; Editing by Katie Nguyen)