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Iran's Salehi to visit Cairo for Syria talks: reports

TEHRAN (AFP) — Iran's Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi will visit Egypt on January 9 for a two-day trip aimed at discussing the Syria crisis and Tehran-Cairo bilateral talks, media reports said on Saturday.

Salehi will meet his counterpart Mohammed Kamel Amr and President Mohamed Morsi during his stay in Cairo, said Mojtaba Amani, the head of Tehran's interests section in the Egyptian capital, according to the ISNA news agency.

Egypt's official MENA news agency, quoting Amr who is on a visit to Riyadh, said Salehi's visit was taking place in the context of "reviving the initiative of President Mohamed Morsi as per the contact group on Syria."

Salehi was in Cairo in mid-September for a meeting of the contact group on conflict-stricken Syria. The group also includes Turkey and Saudi Arabia.

Iran staunchly supports Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's regime, in contrast with Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Turkey which have all called for his ouster amid the unabated violence gripping the country.

The ISNA report did not specify whether Salehi's visit is part of a specific diplomatic mission or was taking place within the framework of the Syria contact group.

Iranian diplomat Amani said only that Salehi is expected to discuss "bilateral issues, the issue of Syria as well as other regional and international matters" with Egyptian officials.

But he said a meeting between Salehi and UN-Arab League peace envoy to Syria Lakhdar Brahimi was likely.

Salehi left Tehran on a tour of African nations on Saturday, which will take him to Benin, Ghana and Burkina Faso.

Iran and Egypt have maintained interests sections in their respective capitals ever since they cut diplomatic ties in 1980 in the wake of Iran's Islamic revolution.

Morsi attended a Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) summit in Tehran in late August, the first time an Egyptian head of state had set foot in Iran since ties were severed.

Shiite-majority Iran has sought to normalise relations with Sunni Arab Egypt since the overthrow of president Hosni Mubarak in 2011. But Morsi has so far reacted with caution to Tehran's overtures.