BEIRUT, (AFP) — Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s expected tour of south Lebanon during his official visit to the Mediterranean country was criticised as a “provocation” on Friday by the largest bloc in parliament.
On the two-day visit from October 13, Ahmadinejad is scheduled to meet his counterpart Michel Sleiman, Prime Minister Saad Hariri and parliament speaker Nabih Berri.
The hardliner is due to meet on the sidelines with Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah — a key ally whose powerful party is considered a proxy of Iran — and tour the south of the country, according to political officials.
“The message is that Iran is at the border with Israel,” Fares Souaid, coordinator of the “March 14” alliance, told AFP.
“Ahmadinejad through this visit is saying that Beirut is under Iranian influence and that Lebanon is an Iranian base on the Mediterranean,” added Souaid, whose coalition is led by the Western- and Saudi-backed premier.
“His visit to the south would be a provocation, he doesn’t need to go there.”
The southern border region with Israel is largely controlled by Hezbollah and was devastated during the 2006 war between the militant party and the Jewish state.
A Hezbollah official, speaking on condition of anonymity, told AFP Ahmadinejad would tour the villages of Cana and Bint Jbeil as well as a new war museum in the region inaugurated by Hezbollah earlier this year.
It will be Ahmadinejad’s first visit to Lebanon since his 2005 election.
Iranian officials have yet to confirm the visit or its itinerary.