Iran FM Visits Lebanon,Offers Support

Iran FM Visits Lebanon,Offers Support

BEIRUT (AP) -- Iran's foreign minister offered his country's military assistance to the U.S.-backed Lebanese army on Sunday, saying Iran is ready to cooperate in all sectors should the Lebanese government want it.

Mohammad Javad Zarif spoke to reporters Sunday at Beirut's airport shortly after his arrival in the Lebanese capital for a two-day official visit.

"We are always ready (to support Lebanon militarily) and we have announced that on many occasions. This tendency does exist in Iran, but we are waiting for this desire to be there on the Lebanese side," he said.

The comments came a few days after the leader of the Iran-backed Hezbollah group urged Lebanon's government to accept anti-aircraft weapons from Iran to confront Israeli warplanes. He also said Iran was ready to provide Lebanon with electricity and medicine.

The United States, which lists Hezbollah as an armed terrorist group, backs the Lebanese army through a program that aims to strengthen the military as the sole military force defending the country.

Lebanon formed a new government last week headed by Prime Minister Saad Hariri, after a nine-month vacuum that exacerbated the country's economic woes. Hezbollah has three ministers in the new government, reflecting the gains made by the powerful group in parliament elections held in May last year. The group named the health minister, marking the first time it controls a ministry with a large budget.

Zarif was met at the airport by Hezbollah lawmakers. In his comments, he congratulated Lebanese politicians and said Iran is ready to support the government in any way possible.

Zarif is scheduled to meet with the Lebanese president, prime minister and foreign minister on Monday.

(KA)