Hezbollah Chief Hassan Nasrallah said Saturday, ahead of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's upcoming visit to Lebanon, that the money his organization received from Iran had helped rebuild Lebanese houses destroyed by Israel in the 2006 Second Lebanon War.
"Hezbollah does not trust the Lebanese government's bureaucracy, and the Iranians paid in cash," Nasrallah said in a televised broadcast, referring to the money Hezbollah had received from Iran.
"The Iranian president is arriving as a guest of Lebanon," Nasrallah added. "He was invited by Lebanese President Michel Suleiman himself."
The Hezbolllah leader stressed that recent reports that Ahmadinejad intended to visit the Lebanon-Israel border in order to throw stones at Israelis were "ridiculous."
The Iranian leader is scheduled to visit Lebanon on Wednesday and Thursday, and is slated to visit the southern Lebanese villages of Bint Jbeil and Maroun al-Ras, each within a few kilometers of Israeli soil. The London-based newspaper Al-Quds Al-Arabi has reported that Ahmadinejad is interested in reaching the border fence to hurl stones at Israeli soldiers on the other side.
"If Ahmadinejad wanted to throw something on Israel, he would throw something bigger than stones," Nasrallah explained.
Nasrallah, who made a rare public appearance on Friday when he emerged from his bunker in order to plant a tree outside his home near Beirut, urged all Lebanese citizens to plant a tree outside their homes as part of a Hezbollah campaign to plant one million trees in Lebanon.
The Hezbollah chief has rarely been seen in public since his Shiite Muslim group battled Israel in a month-long 2006 war, fearing assassination. He gives news conferences via satellite link.
A top-ranking Israeli official said the Foreign Ministry and security services are conducting security evaluations of Ahmadinejad's visit, and that Israel is engaged in military, diplomatic and public-relations preparations in the days preceding it.
Over the past week, Israel has sent messages to Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri and President Michel Suleiman through UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and the U.S. and French governments. Last week, National Security Council head Uzi Arad met in Paris with his French counterpart Jean-David Levitte and asked him to transfer messages to the Lebanese government stating that Jerusalem views Ahmadinejad's visit close to Israel's border as a provocative measure that could undermine regional stability and should therefore be canceled. A similar message was delivered to U.S. officials.
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