CAIRO: The Foreign Ministry has issued orders that British officials entering Egypt be subject to the same treatment that Pope Shenouda III encountered at London’s Heathrow airport, local press reported.
At a Shoura Council session, Assistant Foreign Minister for the Minister’s Cabinet Affairs Wafaa Baseim said that the British Foreign Office violated protocol by allowing Shenouda, who caries a diplomatic passport, to be subjected to any form of search.
According to Baseim, “the justification by the British authorities that the new procedure that was assigned to a new security company does not exempt clergymen from being searched is unacceptable, Al-Masry Al-Youm reported.
As such, “under the principle of equal treatment the Foreign Ministry has instructed that British officials be subject to the same treatment at Egypt’s airports and other ports of entry.
Shoura Council members expressed their outrage at the treatment meted to Shenouda and demanded apologies from the Foreign Office to their Egyptian counterparts as well as Shenouda personally.
Security officials at London’s Heathrow airport stopped Shenouda at the VIP area requesting he undergo a security search. The Pope passed through a metal detector but objected to a body search, which was not carried out.
The Foreign Ministry released a strongly worded statement displaying “Egypt s extreme resentment at the incident and asking for a justification to this unacceptable act which elicited an angry reaction from Egyptian public opinion. The ministry sent a letter of complaint to the British embassy in Cairo demanding an explanation for the incident, adding that this was at the direct request of Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit.
According to the ministry’s spokesman, “the British ambassador [Dominic Asquith] asserted to Egyptian officials that he was awaiting his government s report on the circumstances of the incident and requested a meeting with his Holiness the Pope to apologize for what happened.
The spokesman added that the Egyptian embassy in London received a letter from the Protocol Department of the British Foreign Office indicating their deep regret over the incident and their insistence that no offence was intended towards the Pope.
The letter, however, stressed the “insistence of the British side to implement security measures at Heathrow with the measures it deems necessary in light of the terrorist threats against Britain, with no exceptions for any religious authorities or prominent key figures passing [through] the airport.