CAIRO, March 1: Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak said he had advised the United States against attacking Iran, predicting that Tehran would react through its influence over Shi'ite Muslim communities in Arab countries in the Gulf.
In remarks to Egyptian newspaper editors published today, Mubarak also said an Israeli attack on Iran was most unlikely because Tehran would respond by launching ballistic missiles at the Jewish state.
The United States has declined to rule out military force against Iran, which it says it suspects of working on nuclear weapons under the cover of its civilian nuclear programme.
Mubarak, speaking on his way back from the Gulf on Monday, said he discussed the consequences of a US attack on Iran with US Vice President Dick Cheney, who visited Egypt in January.
''I said to him word for word: 'Listen to my advice for once.','' Mubarak said, speaking the phrase in English. The remark was published in the state-owned daily al-Gomhuria.
Mubarak warned against the US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003.
''If an air strike (against Iran) took place, Iraq will turn into terrorist groups more than it is already ... The Gulf area has Shi'ite majorities in many of the states and America is linked to vital interests in this area and has naval facilities,'' Mubarak said.
''Iran spends generously on the Shi'a in every country and these people are prepared to do anything if Iran is hit.'' The newspaper continued: ''The president said that he ruled out completely Israel carrying out this strike (on Iran) because Iran possesses ballistic missiles which it would launch at Israel and which would cause great damage.
''Violent revenge would appear from Iraqi groups and extremist religious parties and organisations like Hizbollah and so on ... Such a strike would turn the whole world, especially for the Americans, into a big theatre for terrorism.'' Mubarak visited five Gulf countries -- Bahrain, Kuwait, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates -- on Sunday and Monday, a few days after talks in Cairo with US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.
He said he was surprised at media speculation that his mission was to convey US demands to Gulf leaders.