Reuters International

NAIROBI (Reuters) - Egypt has become embroiled in a dispute with African diplomats after they accused an Egyptian official of referring to "dogs and slaves" in remarks about sub-Saharan Africa at a United Nations conference in Nairobi.

The diplomats sent a formal complaint to Kenya's foreign ministry after the alleged remark at the U.N. Environmental Assembly last week, Yvonne Khamati, chairwoman of the African Diplomatic Corps Technical Committee, said on Tuesday.

Egypt's foreign ministry said it had no evidence of any such remarks by a Cairo official and would investigate, adding that it rejected "flimsy accusations against the Egyptian state and people that cast doubt on its African identity."

Khamati, a Kenyan diplomat who wrote the letter, said the remark was made following a disagreement on resolutions involving Gaza.

"During our consultations with Egypt, the head of the Egyptian delegation and current President of AMCEN dismissed our concerns by informing that they would speak in their sovereign capacity and to that extent, referred to Sub-Saharan Africa as DOGS AND SLAVES, in Arabic," said the letter dated May 29.

The term AMCEN in the letter, which has been circulated widely on social media, refers to the African Ministerial Conference on the Environment.

In its statement, the Egyptian foreign ministry said: "It is completely unacceptable to make the mistake of generalising and making flimsy accusations against the Egyptian state and people that cast doubt on its African identity."

It asked Cairo's embassy in Nairobi to "a strongly worded statement ... expressing Egypt’s rejection and censure for this breach of authority" by Khamati and demanded to see the official minutes of the meeting.

The incident looked likely to add to tensions Egypt has had with its sub-Saharan neighbours, with which it has been at odds in the past over how River Nile waters should be shared by the countries it passes through.

(Reporting by George Obulutsa in Nairobi and Lin Noueihed in Cairo; Editing by Tom Heneghan)

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