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Saudi Arabia has no favourite in Egypt's presidency race: Saudi ambassador

Saudi Arabia's ambassador to Egypt, Ahmed Al-Qattan, met Saturday the Muslim Brotherhood's presidential candidate, Mohamed Morsi, but stressed that his country stands at an equal distance from all presidential runners

Sherif Tarek , Saturday 12 May 2012
Morsi and Qattan
Morsi (L) and Al-Qattan during the meeting (Photo: Saudi Embassy's media bureau)
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Ahmed Al-Qattan, Saudi Arabia's ambassador to Egypt, has stressed on Saturday that the oil-rich kingdom does not support any particular Egyptian presidential candidate over another, refuting allegations that his country is pushing for an Islamist Egyptian president.

Al-Qattan's words, according a press release issued by the Saudi Embassy in Cairo, came in a meeting with presidential contender Mohamed Morsi, head of the Muslim Brotherhood's Freedom and Justice Party (FJP), outside the embassy's premises.

The press release did not elaborate on the nature of the meeting, during which Al-Qattan said that he "only wishes Egypt security and stability and that it regains its constructive and pioneering role in the Arab world."

"The Kingdom stands at an equal distance from all presidential candidates," he stated during the meeting, according to the statement of the Saudi Embassy's media bureau.

Many believe the ultra-conservative Saudi Arabia is hoping to see an Islamist president assume power in Egypt, so as to implement policies and laws that would be more compatible with those of the former country's Islamic monarchy.

Morsi, former Brotherhood leader Abdel Monem Aboul-Fotouh and lawyer Mohamed Selim El-Awa are the three Islamist presidential candidates in this month's race.

Morsi and Abou-Fotouh, according to independent polls, are considered to be among the frontrunners, whereas El-Awa trails far behind.

So far, Al-Qattan has only met Morsi from the 13 runners in the presidential elections.

Tensions between Egypt and Saudi Arabia escalated last month in the wake of the case of Ahmed El-Gizawi, the Egyptian lawyer who was reportedly sentenced to one year in prison and 20 lashes for "defaming the Saudi king."

Hundreds of protesters gathered outside the Cairo embassy of the kingdom on 24 April to call for El-Gizawi's release and to denounce the mistreatment of Egyptians in Saudi Arabia, chanting strong slogans against the neighbouring country. Reportedly, some of them even attempted to break into the embassy headquarters.

Saudi officials denied that El-Gizawi was sentenced to a one-year jail term and 20 lashes, stating that he was arrested after being found in possession of more than 21,000 pills of the drug Xanax, trade in which is proscribed in the peninsula.

Shortly after the Saudi capital Riyadh recalled Al-Qattan, Egypt eased the diplomatic stress upon sending a 124-strong top level Egyptian delegation – headed by parliament's lower house speaker and prominent Brotherhood figure, Mohamed Saad El-Katatny – to visit Saudi King Abdallah bin Abdul-Aziz Al-Saud.

Al-Qattan returned to Egypt 5 May, only one day after the delegation had arrived in Saudi Arabia.

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