Britain seeks to defuse Pope Shenouda search row

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CAIRO: Britain s ambassador to Egypt met with Coptic Pope Shenouda III on Tuesday in a bid to defuse an escalating row after authorities at London s Heathrow airport tried to search the Orthodox pontiff.

We have the highest respect, esteem and affection for Pope Shenouda, an embassy statement quoted ambassador Dominic Asquith as saying.

Egypt said on Sunday it would step up airport security procedures for British officials after airport authorities tried to physically search Shenouda, 84, who has a diplomatic passport, before he boarded his flight.

He was not physically searched but was forced to go through a metal detector, Egypt s Deputy Foreign Minister Wafa Bassim told the Shoura Council, the upper house of Egypt s parliament, earlier this week.

The British ambassador said: There has been no intention at all to offend His Holiness or make him upset. We regret any other impressions that might have been deduced.

Egypt s official MENA news agency said Asquith met with Shenouda to apologize for the insult made against him … when security authorities insisted on searching him in defiance of standard protocols.

Shoura speaker Sawfat Al-Sherif had demanded an official apology from the British government.

Previously, Egypt’s foreign ministry announced that it had issued orders that British officials entering Egypt be subjected to the same treatment as that given to the Pope “under the principle of equal treatment.

However, a statement from the British Embassy on Wednesday said that, “British diplomats are searched when leaving Egyptian airports and are always required to walk through metal arches. They expect and understand these requirements. -AFP with additional reporting from Daily News Egypt

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