DAMASCUS: Syria hit back at Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi on Monday saying his Islamist beard is the only thing that distinguishes him from the veteran strongman he replaced after last year's Arab Spring uprising.
Responding to high-profile criticism from Morsi at a Non-Aligned Movement summit in Tehran last week, Information Minister Omran al-Zohbi charged that the Egyptian leader was complicit in the armed revolt rocking his country.
"He is responsible for spilling Syrian blood, as are the Qataris, the Saudis and the Turks," Zohbi said.
"The only difference between him and (ousted strongman Hosni) Mubarak is that he has a beard."
The Syrian government prides itself on its secularism. The Muslim Brotherhood, for which Morsi successfully ran for Egypt's presidency earlier this year, has long been outlawed in Syria on pain of death. It is one of the most powerful factions within the opposition Syrian National Council.
Morsi caused a storm on Thursday when, on the first visit to Iran by an Egyptian leader in decades, he slammed Syria's regime as "oppressive" and urged support for rebels seeking President Bashar al-Assad's ouster.
"Our solidarity with the struggle of Syrians against an oppressive regime that has lost its legitimacy is an ethical duty, and a political and strategic necessity," he said.