CAIRO (AP) — Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi will travel to Saudi Arabia on Wednesday on his first official trip abroad since being sworn in, a move suggesting the Islamist leader wants to reassure the kingdom that strong relations are a priority.
Some Saudi officials are believed to have supported Morsi's former electoral rival, a former prime minister and ex-military general, in hopes of continuing the warm relationship once shared with Egypt's ousted leader Hosni Mubarak.
Egypt's official news agency MENA said Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah invited Morsi "to strengthen relations." The announcement came after Morsi met with Saudi Arabia's ambassador to Egypt on Saturday.
Morsi is the country's first democratically-elected president, the first civilian and first Islamist to take office in Egypt. He was sworn in last week after more than a year since Mubarak was toppled in a popular uprising.
In another move suggesting an attempt to allay fears, Morsi, who was the Muslim Brotherhood's party leader before being elected, pledged after his win not to export Egypt's revolution or meddle in the affairs of other countries. That came after some officials from Gulf nations accused the Brotherhood of plotting to support regime change in their region.
Morsi's planned visit to Saudi Arabia comes on the heels of a diplomatic spat between the two powers over demands that the kingdom release an Egyptian rights lawyer detained there for allegedly insulting the monarch.
Saudi Ambassador Ahmed Kattan was quoted in MENA as saying that the detention of Ahmed el-Gezawi had received more attention that it deserved.
He also said that the kingdom has offered $1 billion to Egypt's Central Bank after election results were announced and another $500 million for general economic assistance. The kingdom also allocated $250 million for natural gas exports to Egypt, Kattan said.
Separately, U.S. Deputy Secretary of State William Burns was in Egypt on Saturday, the U.S. Embassy said, a day before he meets the new president to deliver a letter from President Barack Obama. Obama had previously called Morsi to congratulate him on his win.
Burns will be the highest ranking U.S. official to meet Morsi since his swearing-in. The U.S. diplomat had met him in January during a visit to Cairo when he was the head of the Brotherhood's party.
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's is also due to travel to Egypt later this month.
On Saturday, Burns met with the acting Pope of the Coptic Church in Egypt, a U.S. official at the embassy and Egypt's MENA news agency said. A statement by the US Embassy said Burns plans to meet a number of politicians and civil society figures during the trip.