Ahmadinejad set to visit Israel border area

Lebanon’s southern residents have closed their shops, schools and offices to welcome Iran’s President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad near the border with Tehran’s arch-foe Israel.

By (Reuters)

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Published: Thu 14 Oct 2010, 7:51 PM

Last updated: Mon 6 Apr 2015, 8:21 AM

Ahmadinejad told Lebanon’s government on Wednesday that Iran would support it in confronting what he called Israeli hostility.

He was due to speak in the town of Bint Jbeil, a bastion of Iran’s ally Hezbollah which witnessed fierce battles during their 34-day war in 2006.

Ahmadinejad’s speech in Bint Jbeil, four km north of the Israeli border, has strong symbolism. In 2000, Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah delivered a victory speech there two days after Israel ended 22 years of occupation of south Lebanon.

Iranian flags and posters lined the main roads in south Lebanon. At the entrance of Bint Jbeil a giant banner read “welcome” in Farsi and Arabic.

Signs on billboards and banners said: “The south welcomes the protector of the resistance”.

Buses transported hundreds of Lebanese from Beirut, the Bekaa valley and other villages in the south to a stadium in Bint Jbeil where the ceremony was expected to be held.

“I am here to show my support for this fighter who gave unlimited support for the resistance until we reached liberation,” said 65-year-old Hussein Ayash, who came from the village of Khiyam, 30 km away.

The US said Ahmadinejad’s visit to Lebanon showed he was continuing his “provocative ways”. Washington wants to isolate Iran over its nuclear programme and says Iran’s support for Hezbollah militants undermines Lebanese sovereignty.

Ahmadinejad’s trip has also alarmed pro-Western politicians in Lebanon’s fractious unity government, who have accused him of treating Lebanon like “an Iranian base on the Mediterranean”.

But in a message apparently aimed at addressing those protests and easing months of political tension, Ahmadinejad stressed Iranian backing for all Lebanese.

Israel’s Defence Minister Ehud Barak said the Iranian president’s visit showed how far Hezbollah had become dependent on Tehran and Lebanon had “become a tool in the hands of other entities”. On Wednesday, Ahmadinejad told a rally organised by Tehran’s ally Hezbollah that Israel would pay a price for any aggressive action.

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