TEHRAN — Egypt's new president rankled his hosts but won plaudits elsewhere Thursday when he condemned the Iran-backed government of Syrian President Bashar Assad as an "oppressive regime," sparking a walkout by Assad government officials at a summit of nonaligned nations.
"We express our solidarity with the struggle of the Syrian people against an oppressive regime that has lost legitimacy," Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi told the assembled delegates at a conference hall in the Iranian capital. "It is not only an ethical duty but a political and strategic necessity."
Morsi's impassioned plea represented a diplomatic humiliation for Tehran, which had touted his presence as a diplomatic coup, the first visit by an Egyptian leader here since the Islamic Revolution overthrew the U.S.-backed Iranian shah in 1979.
But instead of toeing Tehran's line on the delicate issue of Syria or sidestepping the incendiary topic, Morsi acted like the guest who spoiled the party, making an emotional case for the ouster of Assad, Iran's closest Arab ally.
"The blood of the Syrian people is on our necks, and it will not stop unless there is an intervention by all of us," Morsi said while calling for a transition to a representative government in Syria, where the Assad family has ruled for more than 40 years. ...