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Iran’s defense minister said Sunday that Iran was ready to cover Lebanon’s defense needs and also that of the militant anti-Israeli group Hezbollah, the ISNA news agency reported.

“Iran has constantly said that it would be beside the Lebanese army and resistance (Hezbollah) and ready to cover the country’s defense needs,” Ahmad Vahidi said at a military fair in Tehran, also attended by visiting Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri.

Hariri welcomed the Iranian offer and called for a closer cooperation between the two countries’ defense ministries, ISNA said.

“The stability, security and unity of Lebanon play a very important role in resolving regional and internal issues. Therefore, I wanted to come to Iran and see your defence achievements, even though it is contrary to the position of our enemies,” Hariri was quoted as saying.

Lebanese Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri (C) looks at weapons with Iran's Defense Minister Ahmad Vahidi (2nd R) at a military exhibition in Tehran November 28, 2010.

The Iranian minister also criticized a UN tribunal probing the 2005 assassination of Hariri’s father, former premier Rafik Hariri, while condemning his killers as “enemies of Lebanon.”

“Today, some from outside Lebanon seek to take the security of Lebanon hostage, in the form of the tribunal,” Vahidi said.

Hariri arrived in Tehran on Saturday and is scheduled to meet with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad later Sunday.

As a symbol of Iran’s solidarity with Lebanon, Vahidi presented Hariri a gilt Iran-made machine-gun.

In a meeting earlier Sunday with Vice-President Mohammad Reza Rahimi, the two sides urged a deepening of relations in all fields.

But Hariri’s visit has been overshadowed by Iran’s support for Hezbollah, which leads the opposition against his Western-backed government.

The rift between the two factions has widened after reports that the United Nations-backed tribunal investigating the 2005 assassination of Hariri’s father, former premier Rafik Hariri, was ready to indict Hezbollah members for the murder.

Iranian media quoted Hariri as saying Sunday that he was the leader of the “unity government” and hence represented all political parties and groups in Lebanon.

Hariri is meeting Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad Sunday evening and the two countries are also expected to focus on mutual cooperation, following up on 17 agreements signed during Ahmadinejad’s October visit to Lebanon.

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