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Hezbollah Mobilize to Welcome Iranian President - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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Beirut, Asharq Al-Awsat – Active preparations are underway for Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s forthcoming visit to Lebanon which is expected to take place sometime next week, from the corridors of the Baabda Presidential Palace to the streets of the southern villages, where posters of the Iranian president and banners welcoming him are being put up, particularly in the border areas of Bint Jbeil and Maroun al-Ras.

The people of southern Lebanon, who are enthusiastic about Ahmadinejad’s forthcoming visit, have said that “what we did to welcome the Emir of Qatar, Sheikh Hamad Bin Khalifa al Thani was just the dress rehearsal for President Ahmadinejad’s visit.”

More than one itinerary has been issued for Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s forthcoming trip to Lebanon, however highly informed sources at the Iranian embassy in Beirut have informed Asharq Al-Awsat that “the Iranian president will lead a large and high ranking delegation [during the visit to Lebanon] that includes ministers, parliamentarians, and businessmen.” The Iranian embassy sources also said that “Ahmadinejad will propose to provide Lebanon with assistance in oil exploration, as well as [assistance] in providing Lebanon with energy, establishing industrial cities, and equipping the Lebanese army.”

Although the Iranian embassy sources refused to confirm or deny whether President Ahmadinejad was intending to visit southern Lebanon, other sources confirmed to Asharq Al-Awsat that “southern Lebanon and its border villages is the most prominent stop on Ahmadinejad’s itinerary, and he is most enthusiastic to stand on the battlefields where the blood of martyrs of the resistance have been shed.”

The source also informed Asharq Al-Awsat that “Hezbollah is mobilizing a large number of people to welcome the high-ranking Iranian guest who will visit the villages of Qana, Bint Jbeil, Maroun al-Ras, and Mlita.” The source stressed that “the importance of this visit lies in its form rather than its content; for the Iranian President standing on the border represents a direct provocation to the Israeli enemy.”

The upcoming visit adds fuel to the fire of the conflict that has been taking place between the Lebanese factions, for while a large section of the March 14 Alliance consider the visit to be provocative, the March 8 Alliance have welcomed this and described Ahmadinejad’s visit to Iran as “historic.”

In a previous interview with Asharq Al-Awsat, Future Movement deputy leader, Antoine Andraous described President Ahmadinejad’s visit as being “a provocative visit for two thirds of the Lebanese people.” He also referred to the “immorality of the Hezbollah movement that wants to implement a truce until Ahmadinejad’s visit to Beirut, and then [afterwards] resume the war and return to fighting us.”

MP Okab Sakr, who is a member of the “Lebanon First” bloc that is led by Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri told Asharq Al-Awsat that Hariri’s position – and that of his electoral bloc – towards the Iranian President’s visit to Lebanon is one that stresses “the necessity of separating between the visit itself and the Future Movement’s position towards Ahmadinejad’s policies.”

He added that “we have our negative position towards Ahmadinejad’s politics, and this is a position that exists even within Iran. However this is one thing; and the Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad visiting Lebanon is another. We welcome this visit and we hope to strengthen ties between the state of Lebanon and Iran; we also hope that Ahmadinejad takes a position to counter the challenges that Lebanon is facing internally, especially as he has clear influence on a large section of the March 8 Alliance.”

Sakr stressed to Asharq Al-Awsat that “we, as Lebanese, do not care if this visit raises Israeli concerns, for such concerns reassure us so long as the visit does not violate the Lebanese norms and UN resolution 1701.” Sakr also said that “MPs and senior members of the Future Movement will participate in the meetings with the Iranian President for there is no enmity or hostility between Prime Minister Hariri and the Iranian President.”

Sakr added that “given the chance, Prime Minister Hariri will not hesitate to explain the perspective of a large section of the Lebanese people towards the policies of the Iranian President, however we welcome this visit and Hariri’s meeting with Ahmadinejad will take place naturally according to protocol.” Sakr also revealed that “Hariri has received an invitation to visit Iran, and he will undertake this when the time is right.”

MP Sakr also stressed to Asharq Al-Awsat that “the worst abuses that could take place with regards to Ahmadinejad’s visit is by those who will use this as a platform [for their own views] or those who leak details of the visit or suggest that this will be a watershed moment, and that the period following the visit will be different from what went before, which will harm the Lebanese, as well as the end of the visit will being akin to an announcement of zero hour and a return of the series of security – military [conflicts] which will mean that we have taken a 20-year step backwards.”

Sakr added that “we hope to hear clear talk from Ahmadinejad in this regard to put an end to everything that is being leaked.” As for the expected assistance that will be offered to Lebanon by Iran, Sakr said that “we hope that the talk of this assistance is transformed into a reality, and we even hope that [Iran] assists Lebanon in obtaining peaceful nuclear energy.”

MP Ayoub Hmayed of the Liberation and Development bloc that is led by Lebanese parliamentary speaker Nabih Berri said that “the Iranian President Mahmoud Ahamdinejad’s visit to Lebanon will represent addition support for Lebanon and its issues” adding that “Iran has been Lebanon’s partner in its victories against the Zionist enemy.”

Hmayed also said that “Ahmadinejad’s visit will also represent an opportunity in an official framework to increase cooperation in a number of areas of mutual benefit to both Lebanon and Iran, in addition to the fundamental issue which is supporting the Lebanese military, which Iran expressed a readiness to begin [providing support], and it only remains for Lebanon to find out what it needs.”

Hmayed also criticized some countries “that claim to be concerned with Lebanon and its sovereignty and claim to support the Lebanese army to allow it to carry out its duties to defend Lebanese territory” adding that “these claims are false and a mirage, and limited to some simple things that do not prevent hunger.” He also confirmed that “everything that Lebanon will officially ask for from Ahmadinejad during this visit will be welcomed by the brothers in Iran.”

Lebanese Energy Minister Gebran Bassil has also attacked the criticisms made by some figures of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s visit to Lebanon, saying that he was surprised by this, stressing that “Iran wants to help Lebanon and the people of Lebanon.” Bassil added that “we see that this [visit] is welcomed by the government, whilst outside of the government some people have taken a different position.”

Asharq Al-Awsat

Asharq Al-Awsat

Asharq Al-Awsat is the world’s premier pan-Arab daily newspaper, printed simultaneously each day on four continents in 14 cities. Launched in London in 1978, Asharq Al-Awsat has established itself as the decisive publication on pan-Arab and international affairs, offering its readers in-depth analysis and exclusive editorials, as well as the most comprehensive coverage of the entire Arab world.

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