Report: Iran to propose military aid to Lebanon

Al-Hayat reports military issues will be discussed during Suleiman's "historic" 2-day visit to Teheran.

suleiman laughs 248.88 (photo credit: )
suleiman laughs 248.88
(photo credit: )
Lebanese President Michel Suleiman starts a two-day trip to the Islamic republic on Monday on what Iranian officials are calling "a historic visit" meant to accelerate economic, cultural and political cooperation between the countries. Teheran is expected to offer Lebanon military assistance for its army during the visit, according to the pan-Arab daily Al-Hayat, which quoted unnamed sources on Sunday. "Suleiman's visit to Teheran and the willingness of the latter to provide Lebanon with 'heavy weapons' and possibly rockets, is within the context of a growing number of countries that have offered to contribute in the arming of the Lebanese Army," according to the report. For example, French Prime Minister Francois Fillon and his defense minister, Hervé Morin, discussed the needs of the Lebanese military with Lebanese Defense Minister Elias Murr a few days ago, while US Deputy Secretary of State David Welch recently decided to provide Lebanon with M60 tanks. In addition, Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin "reaffirmed that Moscow was ready to meet the demands of the Lebanese army," Al-Hayat reported. The visit makes it appear that Iran is also in competition to supply military assistance to Lebanon, according to the report. Teheran's ambassador to Lebanon, Muhammad Reza Sheibani, told the Iranian news service IRNA last week that "the visit will further demonstrate Iran's role in solving regional crises." In addition, Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki told Lebanon's As-Safir newspaper on Friday that "we are expecting a lot from this visit and from future relations with Lebanon." In addition to discussing the general Middle East situation and the Arab-Israeli peace process, Monday and Tuesday's talks will include efforts to forge a "national defense strategy" for Lebanon, where Hizbullah's weapons remain an issue of contention, an unnamed official told Agence France-Press on Sunday. Teheran is also interested in investing in Lebanon and creating joint projects in several areas, according to Al-Hayat.