Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak's call for free elections next month is a sham because of the exclusion of Islamist groups, a conservative Iranian newspaper charged on Monday.
"The very fact that Mubarak (has been) ruling the country for the past 24 years shows what type of democracy prevails in Egypt," the Kayhan International said in an editorial.
"Claims of being democratic when several Islamist groups and a major Islamist party, the Muslim Brotherhood, are not allowed to take part in the elections have a hollow ring," the daily said.
"Talking of 'free and fair' elections sounds very ridiculous."
The National Democratic Party of Mubarak, who issued a decree Sunday urging Egyptians to vote in October's parliamentary elections, has been in power since 1981 and controls the vast majority of legislative seats.
The opposition, which has just 13 seats, alleged massive vote-rigging in the 1995 elections, and the Egyptian press has been highly sceptical about the chances of a fair vote this time around.
Iran and Egypt do not have full diplomatic relations, and another conservative Tehran paper charged Saturday that Cairo was opposing Iran's proposal for Islamic nations to have a permanent seat on the UN Security Council.
Mohammed Rifah, head of Egypt's interests section in Tehran, told AFP that Cairo was not opposed to the plan as such, but said any expansion of the Council should be done "on the grounds of geography, not religion."
Iran broke off ties with Cairo after it gave refuge to the deposed shah following the 1979 Islamic revolution and remains unhappy over Egypt's 1978 peace treaty with Israel, the first by an Arab country.
Egypt for its part has called for the renaming of a major Tehran boulevard named for the man who assassinated former Egyptian president Anwar Sadat for making peace with Israel.
Mubarak and Iran President Mohammad Khatami talked on the telephone in June in the first direct contact between Egyptian and Iranian heads of state in 20 years - TEHRAN (AFP)
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