President Michel Suleiman and visiting Iranian counterpart, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, held a meeting at the Baabda Presidential Palace on Thursday, National News Agency (NNA) reported.
Iranian Ambassador to Lebanon Ghadanfar Roken Abadi took part in the meeting as a translator, NNA said.
Ahmadinejad arrived at Beirut’s Rafik Hariri International Airport on Wednesday morning along with an official Iranian delegation. He was met at the airport by speaker Nabih Berri
The two heads of state later met at the Baabda palace along with Prime Minister Saad Hariri , following which bilateral agreements were signed , NNA said
Suleiman, Hariri and Ahmadinejad then took part in planting a tree symbolizing Lebanese-Iranian friendship at the Baabda Presidential Palace garden, NNA added.
Suleiman and Ahmadinejad then held a press conference .
Ahmadinejad met also separately with Speaker Nabih Berri and PM Hariri.
At Baabda palace Suleiman, Hariri and Berri held a closed meeting with Ahmadinejad . No details were released about the meeting.
A closed-door meeting between Ahmadinejad and Hariri was held and another closed-door meeting took place between Suleiman and Berri . No details were released about the meetings.
Lunch at Baabda
Suleiman hosted a lunch in honor of Ahmadinejad during which he told his guest that Lebanon appreciates Iranian support in the confrontation with Israeli aggression, particularly after the July 2006 war.
Suleiman also added: “Preservation of our country lies in its national unity and legitimate institutions, in the foundations of co-existence, and according to the charter on which Lebanon has stood since its beginning.”
He added that he was pleased to expand bilateral cooperation, citing a “large group of agreements” he has signed with the Iranian leader.
Ahmadinejad then responded by referencing to the “deep-rooted historical relations of friendliness between Iran and Lebanon,” particularly the cultural exchange carried by religious scholars traveling between the two countries.
He also praised Suleiman’s efforts to “take pride in historical Resistance” and thanked the president, Speaker Nabih Berri, and Prime Minister Saad Hariri for their service to the Lebanese people.
Following the lunch at Baabda palace Ahmadinejad headed to Martyrs Square in downtown Beirut to lay a wreath at the martyrs’ monument.
Although Ahmadinejad was warmly welcomed by the Iranian backed Hezbollah militants other Lebanese were not as enthusiastic about his visit . The March 14 majority alliance issued an open letter to Ahmadinejad on the occasion of his visit to Lebanon in which it hoped that the visit would “support our sovereign and independent country as well as our way of life, just as your predecessor’s visit, President Mohammad Khatami, did and touched all the Lebanese hearts.”
It stressed: “A group of Lebanese takes its strength from you and abuses it against the others, as well as against the state in an attempt to restore absurd and unfortunate adventures executed by different non-Lebanese parties successively for decades. This is half of the bitter truth. The other half is that you are attempting to interfere, just like others that came before you, in our affairs, where foreign interference was only used to manipulate Lebanon internally; the big slogans and the good intentions could not block the actual truth of this use.
On this note, the March 14 Secretariat General demanded the Iranian president to try to persuade the Resistance ( Hezbollah) to enter the confines of the state.
US reaction to the visit
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Wednesday said she rejects any efforts to destabilize Lebanon after the Iranian President arrived in Beirut for a controversial visit.
“The United States supports the integrity and sovereignty of Lebanon. We reject any efforts to destabilize or inflame tensions within Lebanon,” Clinton said in Kosovo where she was meeting political leaders on her two-day tour of the Balkans.
“We would hope that no visitor would do anything or say anything that would give cause to greater tension or instability in that country,” she added.