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Iran renews aid offer to Lebanese forces

TEHRAN, Aug. 27 (UPI) -- Iran is ready to help equip the Lebanese army at the request of Beirut, the Iranian ambassador to Lebanon said.

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad plans to discuss military aid to Lebanon during an upcoming trip to Beirut, Iran's state-funded broadcaster Press TV reports. The report did not indicate when the visit was scheduled, however.

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The offer for assistance comes as Washington weighs its aid commitments to the Lebanese military.

U.S. Rep. Howard Berman, D-Calif., chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said Aug. 9 he was withholding roughly $1 million in military aid to Lebanon because he was concerned about Hezbollah's influence over the military.

His decision followed a gun battle between Israeli and Lebanese forces during the first week of August that left four people dead, including an Israeli lieutenant colonel.

Mark Toner, a deputy spokesman for the U.S. State Department, told reporters during his daily press briefing that U.S. officials were reviewing Berman's decision but felt continued aid was vital to "our national security and the security of the region."

Nevertheless, Ghazanfar Roknabadi, the Iranian envoy to Beirut, said Tehran was standing ready to come to Lebanon's aid.

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"If Lebanon officially calls for Iran's help to equip its army, Iran will feel honored to help Lebanon's army," he said.

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