Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, President of the Islamic Republic of Iran, speaks at the 65th United Nations General Assembly in the UN building in New York City on September 23, 2010. UPI/John Angelillo | License Photo
BEIRUT, Lebanon, Oct. 13 (UPI) -- Iran supports a strong and united Lebanon that has the right to liberate Israeli-occupied land, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said in Beirut.
Ahmadinejad arrived Wednesday in Beirut for a highly anticipated state visit with the Lebanese president, prime minister and speaker of parliament.
Ahmadinejad said during his visit with Lebanese President Michel Suleiman that Tehran demanded a united and strong Lebanon that was able to assert its autonomy in the region.
"We support Lebanon's bitter struggle in confronting Israeli assaults," he was quoted by Hezbollah's al-Manar news channel as saying. "We demand with all seriousness and insistence the liberation of all occupied land in Lebanon and Syria."
The United Nations, in resolutions dealing with the 1967 Six Day War, confirmed Israeli forces have retreated from occupied lands, though Syria and Lebanon contend the withdrawal isn't complete until land along the Israeli border is liberated.
Suleiman thanked the Iranian president for his support, adding both sides discussed terrorism and how to distinguish that from "the resistance," a reference to Hezbollah.
Iranian-supported Hezbollah, which holds two Cabinet positions in the Lebanese government, is bracing for possible indictments from a U.N.-backed tribunal investigating the 2005 assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri. Hezbollah maintains the matter is part of a broad Israeli plot.
The U.S. Embassy in Beirut issued a warning to U.S. citizens to avoid public gatherings ahead of Ahmadinejad's visit.