Egypt arrests Iranian diplomat for alleged spying

Egypt's state security agency is interrogating an Iranian diplomat suspected of spying, the official Egyptian news agency reported Sunday.

However Iran's diplomatic mission in Egypt denied the diplomat, identified as Qassem al-Husseini, had been arrested.

The official MENA news agency said al-Husseini was arrested a few days ago and state security agency prosecutors began interrogating him Sunday on suspicion of collecting "intelligence information" on recent events in Egypt and sending it to Iran.

State security attorney Taher al-Khouli accused al-Husseini of "spying for a foreign country to harm the interests of Egypt" based on an initial investigation, according to the MENA report.

An employee at the Iranian interest section confirmed that al-Husseini works as a consular official in the mission but denied his arrest.

"It's not true," said the employee, speaking on condition of anonymity under office rules. The employee described him as a consular official and said he was in the mission.

"He's there sitting in his office," the employee said.

When a reporter from The Associated Press asked to speak with al-HusseinI, he was connected to a man who said hello twice before the line was cut. When the reporter called back, the employee said the man was al-Husseini.

Egypt and Iran have not had full diplomatic relations since 1979, when Tehran severed ties because Egypt made peace with Israel and gave asylum to the Iranian shah deposed in the Islamic Revolution.

Each country, however, maintains a lower-level diplomatic mission in the other.

The Egyptian Foreign Ministry declined to comment.