'Iran vows to back Palestinian resistance'

Iran's first vice president tells Hamas Prime Minister Haniyeh that Palestinian issue is a "red line," adding that Israel will soon "be punished" for "plots, aggression," AFP reports.

Hamas PM Ismail Haniyeh arrives in Tehran Iran 390 (R) (photo credit: REUTERS/Morteza Nikoubazl)
Hamas PM Ismail Haniyeh arrives in Tehran Iran 390 (R)
(photo credit: REUTERS/Morteza Nikoubazl)
Iran pledged Friday to back Palestinian resistance against Israel, saying "soon the Zionist regime will be punished for its plots and aggression," AFP quoted Iran's first Vice President Mohammad Reza Rahimi as saying.
Rahimi made the remarks to visiting Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh, who arrived Friday for three-day trip.
"Iran will not retreat one iota from its position on defending the rights of the Palestinian people," said Rahimi.
"The Palestinian issue is a red line for us," he added, vowing that Tehran would use "everything at its disposal" to support the "oppressed" Palestinians.
Haniyeh arrived in Tehran Friday afternoon, where he was welcomed at Mehrabad International Airport by Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Salehi.
Haniyeh's was scheduled to meet with Iranian officials and "review regional developments," Iran's FARS news agency reported.
Late last month, Hamas spokesman Taher al-Nono said Haniyeh was going to Tehran at the invitation of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
Earlier this week, however, highlighting the divide between Sunni Arab leaders and Shi'ite Iran, leaders from Gulf states warned Haniyeh not to visit Iran as planned, the Al-Quds daily reported.
According to the report, sources said that "officials in the Gulf states advised Haniyeh not to visit Iran due to tense relations," and "expressed concern over Iran's ambitions in the Persian Gulf."
The source said high-level officials in Qatar, Bahrain and Kuwait - which Haniyeh recently visited - urged him to cancel the planned Iran visit, saying that "without a doubt, Haniyeh's visit to Tehran will have consequences."
Late last month, the Gaza-based Hamas leader departed from the Strip for a tour of Iran and Gulf states.
A diplomatic source told Reuters that Iran had funded Hamas in the past with up to $300 million per year, but the flow of money had not been regular in 2011. "Payment has been in suspension since August," said the source, who spoke on condition of anonymity.
Analysts and diplomatic sources say Iran is unhappy with Hamas for its refusal to offer public support to its ally, Syrian President Bashar Assad, who has hosted the Hamas leadership in exile in his capital Damascus for the past decade.
Reuters contributed to this report.