Egypt suspends tourist flights to Iran after protests


Foreigners crowd the entrance to Cairo's International Airport on February 3, 2011.



Egypt has decided to suspend flights from Iran until mid-June as it re-evaluates its recent decision to allow tourists from the predominantly Shiite nation to visit largely Sunni Egypt.

The first direct flight between the two nations in decades took off March 30, soon after Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad visited Egypt in February — a development that some Egyptians, primarily Sunnis, found distressing.

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"We are re-evaluating our tourism programs with Iran,” said Tourism Minister Hesham Zaazou of the new development, wrote the Egypt Independent.

He did not give a specific reason for the halt in flights, although recent protests by Sunni Islamists against Egypt's warming ties with Iran may provide some clues.

Last week, hardline Sunni Islamists attempted to break into a senior Iranian diplomat's Cairo residence, wrote Reuters, angered over Iran's continuing support of the regime of President Bashar al-Assad in Syria.

Sunni protesters are also concerned that Iranian Shiite visitors to Egypt — 50 of whom arrived to walk the Egyptian tourist trail last month — may attempt to spread their own faith while ostensibly on holiday, notes the Associated Press.