05 October 2010
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's upcoming visit to Lebanon has stirred controversy in the Middle East, and even some Lebanese leaders view it as a provocation meant to serve the Iranian leader's future plans for war. Ahmadinejad is set to visit Lebanon on 13 October, where he will "officially recognize it as an Iranian base" in the Middle East. Antwone Andreus, deputy chief of the Al-Mustaqbal Movement in Lebanon, warned that Ahmadinejad's visit is a provocation of the Lebanese people: "Ahmadinejad is an enemy of Lebanon because he gives Hezbollah weapons, and they walks into Beirut's streets and gun us down."
Fares Saeed, a senior member of the 14 March Alliance, the political bloc headed by Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri, added: "At a time when there are peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians, the Iranian president wants to underscore the fact that Lebanon is land belonging to the resistance and that his war plan against Israel is ongoing. "Ahmadinejad wanted to remind the international community that Israel's security is in Iran's hands via Hamas and Hezbollah."
Sheikh Naim Kasse, a leading Hezbollah figure, said that Ahmadinejad's visit was legitimate, given Iran's contribution to the country's rehabilitation after the 2006 war with Israel. Iran’s Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki said Ahmadinejad's visit "follows an official request of the Lebanese government. We respect every opinion, but the most important thing is cooperating to achieve both nations' goals. Lebanon's stability is a gift from which everyone benefits. We stand by the Lebanese government and the Lebanese people. We can support Lebanon, through mutual agreements, in the economy and even in the military. There are no limits to Iran's cooperation with Lebanon."
Reportedly, Ahmadinejad is planning to visit the southern border with Israel, from where Hezbollah fighters launched rockets that hit cities in northern Israel during the Second Lebanon War. The Iranian leader wants to throw stones at Israel from the border fence in a symbolic gesture, a London-based Arab newspaper reported.
According to reports, Israel has over the past week sent messages to Lebanese Prime Minister Hariri and President Michel Suleiman through UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and the US and French governments, saying that it viewed Ahmadinejad's visit close to Israel's border as a provocative measure that could undermine regional stability and should therefore be cancelled. Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman told Ban at UN headquarters in New York that Israel was "extremely worried" about the Iranian president's visit to Lebanon.
Meanwhile, Syrian President Bashar Assad was in Tehran for a one-day visit. Iranian news agencies reported that he was welcomed by Ahmadinejad in an official state ceremony, and met later with Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. Ahmadinejad presented Assad with an award for Syria's support of Hamas and Hezbollah, and Syrian media reported that the two leaders issued a joint statement indicating that Israel's actions - "Judaizing" Jerusalem, settlement building and the blockade of Gaza - prove it is not interested in peace. The statement also expressed the two leaders' goal of expanding regional "resistance" to Israel. "The strengthening of the resistance movement will encourage other countries to join this bloc, which would eventually lead toward stabilizing regional peace," it said.
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