World News

Hariri says opposes pressuring Iran over nuclear work

TEHRAN (Reuters) - Lebanon’s Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri said on Monday he opposed international pressure on Iran, after the New York Times quoted a leaked cable suggesting he would back military strikes to curb Tehran’s nuclear work.

Speaking at the end of a three-day visit to Iran, Hariri did not mention the newspaper’s report of a 2006 U.S. diplomatic message, included in the WikiLeaks documents released on Sunday.

“”Iraq was unnecessary,’ claimed Saad. “Iran is necessary.,’” the New York Times quoted the secret cable as saying, apparently comparing the cases for military action against the two countries.

Hariri, who at the time was Lebanon’s parliamentary majority leader, reportedly told U.S. officials that they “must be willing to go all the way if need be” to stop Iran getting a bomb if diplomatic efforts fail.

Washington and Israel do not rule out a military strike on Iran to stop it getting nuclear weapons, something Tehran says it is not seeking.

At a news conference on Monday, Hariri said: “Lebanon ... will never, ever consider itself as part of an international system which aims at pressurizing Iran.”

“We believe that Iran reserves the right to enjoy peaceful nuclear technology. We invite the international community, based on this principle, to enter into talks with Iran,” he added.

Iran has indicated its willingness to resume stalled talks with the United States, Russia, China, Britain, France and Germany, but the venue and agenda of the talks have yet to be agreed.

Hariri’s visit to Iran, a strong supporter of Lebanese Shi’ite group Hezbollah, was partly to seek help to prevent political tensions in Lebanon turning violent if a U.N.-backed tribunal indicts Hezbollah members for killing his father.

“There is no doubt that the government of Iran is a friendly and brotherly government for Lebanon and it only wants Lebanon’s good,” Hariri said.

At a meeting with Hariri earlier on Monday, Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said Iran “supports Lebanese unity and independence” but that some people were trying to create instability.

“Lebanon is a multi-religious country in which the followers of different faiths and sects have lived for a long time in peace and sympathy beside each other, but some are looking to create instability,” he said, according to state radio.

Hezbollah says the investigation into Rafik al-Hariri’s death is an Israeli project targeting the group, but Hariri has so far resisted its calls to repudiate the tribunal.

Khamenei encouraged the Lebanese prime minister to strengthen his relationship with Hezbollah chief Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah, state radio reported.

Reporting by Ramin Mostafavi; Writing by Robin Pomeroy; Editing by Samia Nakhoul