Egyptian authorities released an Iranian diplomat Sunday accused of spying after confirming that he worked for the the Iranian diplomatic mission in Cairo, state media reported.
Sayed Kassem al-Hosseini was detained on Saturday night based on intelligence that he was gathering political, economic and military information on Egypt and some Gulf countries, according to state-run news website Egynews.
Prosecutors charged al-Hosseini with spying and filed a case against him. However, shortly afterward, authorities released him after confirming that he was a member of the Iranian diplomatic mission and therefore has diplomatic immunity, dpa reported.
The Iranian foreign ministry said it was unaware of the arrest but would follow up the case through diplomatic channels.
Egyptian intelligence services believe al-Hosseini was working to locate popular or newly formed Egyptian political groups who might seek to cooperate with Iran.
Al-Hosseini's brief arrest could threaten the potential improvement in relations between the two countries, following the ouster of former president Hosny Mubarak and his government in February.
Diplomatic ties between Iran and Egypt were severed after Egypt provided refuge to the exiled Iranian leader Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, following his ouster by the Islamic revolution in 1979.
Over the decades, relations remained troubled, with Egypt accusing Iran of interfering in the affairs of Arab countries, and Iran accusing Egypt of supporting Israel's blockade of the Gaza Strip.
Egyptian Foreign Minister Nabil el-Araby recently met his Iranian counterpart Ali Akbar Salehi in Indonesia, and said that they discussed the possibility of an exchange of ambassadors.
But he also said "this is not the right time" for it to take place, given Egypt's transitional phase post-Mubarak.