Hezbollah welcomes Iran's 'beacon of hope' Rohani

Lebanese group celebrates cleric, in spite of perceived moderate affiliations; Nasrallah labels election "political epic."

June 16, 2013 17:08
2 minute read.
Lebanese Hezbollah supporters chant slogans and hold flags

Hezbollah supporters. (photo credit: Reuters/Khalil Hassan)


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Lebanese militant Shi'ite Muslim group Hezbollah on Sunday welcomed the election of new Iranian President Hassan Rohani, calling him a "beacon of hope."

"The Arab and Muslim people... who have always seen the Islamic republic as a supporter of the oppressed... and every fighter who resists for God, consider you today a beacon of hope," AFP quoted the militant group as saying.

In a message, Hezbollah leader Seyyed Hassan Nasrallah congratulated Rohani for winning the trust of the Iranian nation in a “political epic,” Iran's Press TV reported.

Rohani won 50.7 percent of a total of 36,704,156 ballots counted, Iranian Interior Minister Mostafa Mohammad-Najjar announced on Saturday.

The approval may not come as a surprise, given the close allegiance between Shi'ite Iran and the Lebanese group in what is termed the Shi’ite axis. Tehran is Hezbollah's strongest backer both financially and militarily, having recently thrown its weight behind Syrian President Bashar Assad's regime. Iranian fighters have recently been reported to be fighting alongside the Syrian army and militias loyal to Assad in the town of Qusair, near the Lebanese border.

Iran, a Shi'ite Muslim nation, is Assad's closest ally and has provided money, weapons, intelligence and training for his forces against a mainly Sunni Muslim uprising in which more than 80,000 people have been killed in two years.

However, Sunni Arabs have pinned limited hopes on the moderate cleric Hassan Rohani, as he is known for a conciliatory approach and backed by reformists.

Although Rohani will have only limited say in policy determined by Iran's supreme leader, with the Syrian carnage fueling rage among Sunni Arabs across the region, any gestures from Tehran may help contain it.

"We hope the new Iranian president will be a believer in a political solution in Syria," said one ambassador at the Arab League in Cairo.

"All that we read about Rohani might be grounds for hope - but there is a great difference between election campaigns and what is said once in office."

Iran's last reformist president, Mohammad Khatami, who visited Riyadh while in office from 1997-2005, had mended ties - but at a time of less ferocious disputes.

On Saturday, Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah promised that the Lebanese terrorist group would keep fighting for Syrian President Bashar Assad after it spearheaded the recapture of the strategic town of Qusair last week.

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