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Iran hails visit to Lebanon's south

Oct. 15, 2010 at 11:06 AM
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TEHRAN, Oct. 15 (UPI) -- The visit by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to the Hezbollah south of Lebanon served to strengthen the resistance, an Iranian cleric said.

Ahmadinejad delivered an anti-Israeli speech to throngs of supporters in southern Lebanon during his visit to the Arab country. Washington reacted angrily to the visit by saying Tehran was undermining Lebanese sovereignty in its tacit support of Hezbollah.

"His travel to southern Lebanon is solely to rally Hezbollah, which continues to serve as Iran's proxy in Lebanon," said P.J. Crowley, a spokesman for the U.S. State Department.

Ayatollah Ahmad Jannati told an audience during Friday prayers in Tehran, however, that Ahmadinejad's message was courageous in tone, the official Islamic Republic News Agency reports.

"It contained an anti-Israeli, anti-American and pro-Palestine message," the cleric said.

Ahmadinejad's speech was delivered a few miles from the Israeli border where Hezbollah Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah praised the withdrawal of Israeli forces in 2000.

The Friday prayer leader said Tehran was thankful to Nasrallah for welcoming the Iranian president to the country.

Ahmadinejad's visit comes as Hezbollah braces for possible indictments from a U.N.-backed tribunal probing the 2005 assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri. Hezbollah said during the summer that it has evidence to suggest Israel was tied to the plot.

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