Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad vowed Thursday that his country would press ahead with its nuclear program, despite international concerns, and called upon Lebanon to develop its own nuclear power capability.
The president made his remarks in a well-received speech at the Lebanese University in Beirut, which awarded him an honorary doctorate degree from its school of political science.
"What did they do with their scientific information? They mustered resources to produce nuclear weaponry. They won't let us develop our nuclear science program," Admadinejad told the cheering crowd on the second day of a controversial two-day visit to Lebanon.
"The West wants us to stop our nuclear research, but Iran is determined to continue with it," he said, urging Lebanon to build their own nuclear power plants as well.
Meanwhile Thursday, during a meeting with high-ranking Lebanese officials, Ahmadinejad said that though enemies of the region have been planning to dominate local nations for one hundred years, they "have no hope of ever gaining victory over Iran," the Iranian news agency IRNA reported.
He said enemies had the illusion that Lebanon was the weakest country in the Middle East region while the firm resistance of the Lebanese nation, government and groups proved them wrong.
He further noted that Iran has always stood by Lebanon, stressing that Iran was ready to assist its ally whenever they required assistance.
Earlier Thursday, senior Israeli defense official Amos Gilad said that that "Iran wants to turn Lebanon entirely into an Iranian extension."
Gilad, the head of the Israeli Defense Ministry's military-political branch, called it a "tragedy" that Lebanon's leadership was allowing "a man who is not Arab and an extremist leader to destroy Lebanon from the inside."
Ahmadinejad's visit "illustrates the Iranian trend to take control over southern Lebanon especially," he charged, adding: "It is very important to prevent that."
Hezbollah, he blasted, was becoming "an entity which is eating Lebanon like cancer eats the body."
Israel was watching closely as crowds rallied in southern Lebanon near the border shared Israeli-Lebanese border in anticipation of Ahmadinejad's arrival. Israel and the U.S. have described the Iranian leader's planned tour of the border as a needless provocation.
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