Hezbollah to welcome Ahmadinejad

Lebanese group leader Hassan Nasrallah hails Iran’s support ahead of visit by president of the Islamic republic.

Nasrallah (with turban) has urged all Lebanese to follow his example by planting trees  [REUTERS]

Hassan Nasrallah, the secretary-general of the Lebanese Shia movement Hezbollah, has given a televised address hailing Iran’s contributions to Lebanon’s postwar reconstruction.

Nasrallah made the address on Friday as he prepared his supporters for this week’s visit by Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the Iranian president.

The planned trip has sparked controversy in Lebanon, with some members of the pro-Western parliamentary majority calling it a provocation – and Washington also expressing concern.

The party is blacklisted by the United States as a terrorist organisation. Nasrallah has been Israel’s public enemy number one since his Iranian- and Syrian-backed group fought a deadly month-long war against Israel in the summer of 2006.

News agencies reported the Iranian leader is expected to meet Nasrallah – in addition to the Lebanese president, prime minister and speaker of parliament.

“We are organising a rally in honour of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad next Wednesday at the Al-Raya stadium [in southern Beirut] and we expect Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah to make an appearance,” a Hezbollah official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told AFP.

It is unclear, however, whether Nasrallah will appear in person or via video link – as is usually the case for security reasons.

Controversial trip

Ahmadinejad’s official visit to Lebanon on October 13-14, his first since taking office in 2005, is eagerly anticipated by Hezbollah, which plans to give him a warm welcome as well as a tour of the southern border region with Israel.

Ahmadinejad is expected to visit the village of Qana, which suffered deadly Israeli raids in 1996 and 2006, and Bint Jbeil, a Hezbollah bastion and border village destroyed during the 2006 war.

He is also due to inaugurate a tourist park named “Iran Garden” in the nearby village of Marun al-Ras, which was funded by Iran and includes a small reproduction of Jerusalem’s Al-Aqsa mosque.

The Islamic republic heavily financed the reconstruction of southern Lebanon after the 2006 war and more recently said it stood ready to offer military aid.

A visit to a war museum built by Hezbollah in the town of Mlita is also reportedly on Ahmadinejad’s programme.

Al-Quds al-Arabi, the London-based daily, reported last month that Ahmadinejad planned to “make a symbolic gesture and throw stones towards the Zionist entity”.

But on Thursday a spokesman for the Iranian foreign ministry denied the rumour.

Hezbollah goes green

On Friday, Nasrallah also came briefly out of hiding to plant a tree as part of his Shia party’s Jihad Al-Binaa (Holy Struggle of Construction) campaign to spruce up the country.

Nasrallah, who was last seen in public in July 2008, was shown on Hezbollah’s Al-Manar television station digging a hole and planting a tree outside his home in the southern suburbs of Beirut.

The building had been destroyed by air raids during Hezbollah’s 2006 war with Israel.

Accompanied by the Lebanese agriculture minister at the ceremony, Nasrallah urged all Lebanese to follow his example and plant trees outside their own homes.

Hezbollah has led a campaign to plant one million trees in Lebanon, and Nasrallah’s tree was evidently the millionth.

Source: News Agencies


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