14 October 2010
Iran’s President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was scheduled to visit Hezbollah strongholds near the Lebanese border with Israel on Thursday after he was warmly received in Beirut on Wednesday. Ahmadinejad is on a state visit to Lebanon. Speaking at a late night rally staged by Hezbollah in the capital, the Iranian leader again questioned that the 9/11 terror attacks were the work of al-Qaeda: “I announce that the formation of an independent and neutral team to examine the facts and discover the truth of the 11 September events is the demand of all the peoples of the region and the world.” Earlier in the day, thousands held up flowers and Iranian flags as Ahmadinejad waved through the open roof of a car that carried him through the Shia Muslim strongholds of southern Beirut.
The Iranian leader attacked Israel for allegedly violating the Palestinians' rights: "Do you see anything but crimes in the past actions of the Zionist regime? The massacre of innocent people, the use of weapons, razing homes, confiscating medicine, food and water, attacking civilians in international waters and threatening the world is an everyday occurrence for them." The West, he said, considered Israel a "means of dominating the world," and to that end it had given it nuclear weapons.
The Iranian president said the two military campaigns, against Hezbollah in 2006 and Hamas in 2009, had "exposed Israel's weakness.” He added: “It is also possible that those barbaric Zionists will seek a new regional adventure to try and compensate. I say: any attack will only bring this phony regime closer to its end."
Ahmadinejad told the Hezbollah supporters: "The only way to resolve the problems in Palestine and bring peace to the region is to recognize the rights of the Palestinians, allow the refugees to return to their land and send the conquerors back to their homelands. The Zionists must return Palestine to its true owner, or they will be obliterated by the wrath of the Palestinian people." Ahmadinejad reportedly met with Hezbollah leader Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah before the rally, and Nasrallah delivered remarks at the rally via video link, in which he thanked the Iranian president for his support.
The White House and the US State Department criticized Ahmadinejad’s visit to Lebanon, voicing fears it could undermine the country’s stability. Israel’s Defense Minister Ehud Barak said Ahmadinejad’s visit to Lebanon reflected “Hezbollah's growing dependence on Iran. Lebanon might cease to be an independent nation, and we must watch and consider the matter, whether from the intelligence aspect, or the military one," he said.
Iran’s ally Hezbollah, which is part of the Lebanese unity government, has used hundreds of millions of dollars donated by Tehran for the reconstruction of the south after the 2006 war with Israel, and residents there are expected to express their gratitude to the Iranian leader.
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