TEHRAN (Reuters) - Lebanese Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri met Iran’s defense minister Sunday, stressing that unity between Arab states and Iran against common threats was of “great importance.”
Lebanon would continue its “resistance” to Israel, Hariri also said, on a three-day visit to the Islamic Republic a month after Mahmoud Ahmadinejad made the first ever official visit to Lebanon by an Iranian president.
Hariri’s visit is partly to seek Iran’s help to prevent political tensions turning violent if a U.N.-backed tribunal indicts members of Iran-and-Syria-supported Hezbollah for killing his father.
“The stability, security and unity of Lebanon play a key role in resolving internal and regional issues. Based on that, I was willing to come to Iran and see your defensive military achievements although it was against the opinion of our enemies,” Hariri told reporters, according to state broadcaster IRIB’s website.
“Lebanon has resisted the Zionist regime until now and will continue the resistance,” he said on the sidelines of his visit to a military exhibition.
“Palestine, Syria, Lebanon, Iraq and Iran have always been surrounded by danger. Therefore, unity between the Arabs and Iran is a matter of great importance.”
In a 2006 war with Israel, 1,200 people, mostly civilians, were killed in Lebanon, along with 158 Israelis, mostly soldiers. In August a senior Israeli officer, two Lebanese soldiers and a Lebanese journalist were killed in a rare skirmish that raised fears of wider conflict.
Iran also sees Israel as a threat. The Jewish state has said it does not rule out a military strike against Iran, if necessary, to stop it getting nuclear weapons.
Western diplomats have said that the tribunal could indict members of Hezbollah by early next year for the 2005 bombing which killed former premier Rafik al-Hariri and 21 others.
Lebanese politicians fear the indictments could prompt confrontation and possible violence between the Shi’ite Hezbollah, which has denied any involvement in Hariri’s killing, and allies of the Sunni prime minister.
Iranian Defense Minister Ahamad Vahidi gave Hariri a domestically-manufactured Tondar (Thunder) machinegun as a gift.
Writing by Ramin Mostafavi, Editing by Ron Askew