Iran's president says wishes to visit Gaza

BEIRUT Tue Feb 5, 2013 1:40pm EST

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BEIRUT (Reuters) - Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who is due to take part in a summit in Egypt this week, expressed his desire on Monday to visit the neighboring Gaza Strip.

Asked in an interview on the Al Mayadeen news channel whether he would visit Gaza while in Cairo next week or before his term as president expires in August, he replied: "My wish is bigger than this. I wish to pray in Jerusalem after complete liberation."

Iran does not recognize Israel.

"If they allow it, I would go to Gaza to visit the people," he said, without saying whose authority he would seek.

Egypt controls the crossing with Gaza and leaders of Qatar and Malaysia have both visited the enclave from Egyptian territory in the last six months.

Ahmadinejad's visit to Cairo will be the first for an Iranian president since the 1979 Iranian revolution ruptured diplomatic ties between the two most populous countries in the Middle East.

He will head Iran's delegation to a summit of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation in Cairo.

(This story corrects end of Ahmadinejad's term to August from June, paragraph 2, in February 4 story)

(Reporting by Mariam Karouny; Editing by Kevin Liffey)

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