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Egypt arrests Iranian diplomat on spy charges, report says

Egyptian authorities have arrested an Iranian diplomat on charges of spying on the North African country for Tehran's intelligence services, state media reported on Sunday.

A judicial source confirmed his arrest, which was denied however by the Iranian interests section in Cairo.

"The state security prosecution today began an inquiry into Iranian diplomat Qasim al-Hosseini, who works at the Iranian interests section in Cairo," the Egyptian state news agency MENA reported.

Hosseini, who was arrested a few days ago, had been accused of "spying for a foreign state [Iran] in order to harm Egypt's interests," said MENA.

An initial probe found the diplomat gathered "information about Egypt on the latest developments the country has experienced and the conditions through which it is passing, then sent them to Iran's intelligence services," it added.

The Iranian interests section in Cairo denied the report.

"He is in the embassy as I speak. It did not happen that way, he was not arrested," an official in the section told AFP on condition of anonymity.

Earlier in Tehran, the Arabic-language television channel Al-Alam quoted an informed source as saying that Hosseini "is currently in his office and working normally" in Cairo.

"We are following the case," he added without elaborating.

Iran and Egypt have no diplomatic ties and relations between the two countries were tense under former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak.

Tehran severed diplomatic relations with Egypt in 1980 in protest at Cairo's peace treaty with Israel signed a year earlier, and the two states maintain only interests sections in each other's capitals.

But the two Muslim countries have signaled they plan to mend ties in the wake of the fall of Mubarak's regime on February 11 this year.

-AFP/NOW Lebanon