Egypt's presidency has denied that Essam El-Haddad, President Mohamed Morsi's assistant for foreign affairs, recently met Major General Qassem Suleimani, the commander of the Iranian Quds Brigade, a part of the Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, in Cairo.
The Times newspaper said on 8 January 2013 that the two met while Suleimani was in Cairo for two days. The office of El-Haddad responded robustly, pointing to "the inaccuracy of the whole story" and categorically denying "these fabrications.”
The Times report described the aim of the claimed visit as "sending a message to America."
El-Haddad expressed anger at the report. He said in an official statement Friday, issued through the Egyptian Embassy in London, that Mr Suleimani never entered Egypt.
“We are concerned that a respectable news outlet such as The Times would fail to uphold basic journalistic standards. The Times chose not to solicit a reaction from the [Egyptian] presidency, Dr El-Haddad’s office or the Foreign Ministry,” the statement went on to say.
The Times claimed that the Iranian security official visited Egypt just after Christmas.
It said the information was confirmed by two members of the Muslim Brotherhood’s Guidance Bureau and that the Iranian official was invited by the Egyptian Government and the Muslim Brotherhood.
The report quoted one unnamed official as saying, “The (Egyptian) government requested a high-level meeting with Iranian officials. Iran sent Suleimani.”
The newspaper said the claimed visit by Suleimani “deals another blow to Cairo’s fragile relationship with the West."
El-Haddad said in his statement: “The Times chose also to ignore this response, and when alerted to the inaccuracy of the story, The Times declined to retract it or to acknowledge the refutation of the story by their alleged sources and the office of Dr El-Haddad."
The statement added that El-Haddad's office welcomes press enquiries and exhorts all journalists to seek balance and objectivity in their reporting.