Wed, Oct 13, 2010 | Al-Awsat
Ahmadinejad’s Lebanon Visit Boost For Hezbollah
Thousands of cheering Hezbollah supporters welcomed Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to Lebanon on Wednesday. Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz called on Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad not to cause an irreversible situation during his visit to Lebanon on Wednesday which last till Friday.
Ahmadinejad is making his first state visit to Lebanon at a time when tensions have mounted between Iranian-backed Hezbollah and Western-backed parties in the government. The growing crisis has raised fears over the fate of the unity government that includes both sides and has managed to keep a tenuous calm.
Iran is Hezbollah’s most powerful ally and the visit of Ahmadinejad underscores deep divisions within Lebanon. Much of Ahmadinejad’s welcome was organized by Hezbollah, and the trip includes a provocative excursion to Israel’s border on Thursday.
Representatives from Hezbollah and several pro-U.S. factions attended as Suleiman welcomed Ahmadinejad at the presidential palace.
Hezbollah boasts widespread support among Shiites, virtually runs a state-within-a-state in Shiite areas and has the country’s strongest armed force. Iran funds Hezbollah to the tune of millions of dollars a year and is believed to supply much of its arsenal despite the UN Security Council resolution 1701, which demands the removal of Hezbollah from southern Lebanon, its disarming and the prevention of its rearming.
President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad attended Beirut Martyrs Square to pay tribute to the country’s martyrs. During the ceremony, the Iranian President placed wreaths of flower on the tombs of martyrs who dedicated the lives for independence of Lebanon. [IRNA; Oct 13, 2010]
The biggest splash is from Ahmadinejad’s welcome by Hezbollah. Ahmadinejad is to make public appearances expected to draw giant crowds in two Hezbollah strongholds — one in south Beirut later Wednesday, another the following day in Bint Jbeil, a border village that was bombed during the 2006 Israeli-Hezbollah war. The village lies barely two and a half miles (four kilometers) from the Israeli border.
During a joint press conference with his Lebanese counterpart Michel Suleiman in Beirut, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said on Wednesday that Lebanon has changed the balance of power to the detriment of the enemies in the Middle East. Saluting the struggle of the Lebanese people, government and army in face of Zionists enemies aggressions, President Ahmadinejad said that Lebanon is the source of honor for the Middle East region.
President Ahmadinejad also called for liberation of the Lebanese, Syrian and Palestinian territories from occupation. [IRNA; Oct 13, 2010]
Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri said on Wednesday that his country calls for expansion of all-out political and economic cooperation with the Islamic Republic of Iran. Hariri made the remarks in a meeting with visiting Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in Beirut.
He said that the Islamic Republic of Iran and Lebanon have excellent political relations and “We are determined to boost the current level of economic cooperation to keep up with the political ties between the two sides.” Expansion of cooperation between countries in the region will isolate the enemies, he said.
Iran is expected to sign a $450 million loan agreement to fund Lebanese electricity and water projects, and some Lebanese officials say they expect President Ahmadinejad to help fund Lebanon’s army. [IRNA; Oct 13, 2010]
The US has expressed concern to the Lebanese government over Ahmadinejad’s visit to Lebanon.
US State Department Spokesman P.J. Crowley said that US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton spoke with Lebanese President Michel Suleiman last month, telling him that Iran, through Hizbullah, threatens Lebanon’s sovereignty.
Officials in Jerusalem have said that Lebanon, not Israel, would be the party to suffer most from Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s scheduled visit to southern Lebanon.
“Lebanon is the primary victim, and if it wants to stop slipping into the jaws of the Iranian crocodile, it – and the moderate Arab world – should raise a strong voice and say this provocateur is not welcome,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Yossi Levy said. [Jpost, Oct 12, 2010]