Iran's Khamenei: Lebanon needs unity to 'confront the Zionist regime'
Supreme leader also tells visiting Lebanese president that Iran will 'always stand beside Lebanon.'
Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei on Tuesday told visiting Lebanese President Michel Suleiman that to stand against Israel, Lebanon needed to maintain unity among various groups.
"Iran believes that the strength of all Lebanese groups lies in national unity for effectively confronting the Zionist regime," the ayatollah said in his meeting with Suleiman.
Suleiman arrived in Tehran on Monday for a two-day state visit. He is the third Lebanese president to visit Tehran since the 1979 Islamic revolution.
"Iran will always stand beside Lebanon and I hope that the summit in Tehran will lead to expansion of bilateral ties," said the ayatollah, who according to the constitution has the final say on all state matters.
While referring to the Lebanese anti-Israel militia group Hezbollah, Khamenei said the Lebanese resistance succeeded in pushing Israel out of Lebanon's territories in the summer of 2006 and turned the country into a symbol for resistance and courage within the Muslim world.
"The spirit of resistance (against Israel) should first grow in the (Muslims') hearts and then be implemented in practice and be continued," the Ayatollah said.
Iran supports the Lebanese anti-Israel militia group Hezbollah, but has characterized the support as "spiritual" and has denied giving military or financial aid.
Khamenei praised the Lebanese government for hosting Palestinian refugees and predicted that they would be able to return to their homelands.
State television quoted Suleiman as expressing his country's gratitude for Iran's constant support for Lebanon and its aid in developing his country following the 2006 military confrontation with Israel.
Suleiman met on Monday with his Iranian counterpart Mahmoud Ahmadinejad who promised him that Iran would always stand by Lebanon.
"Lebanon has finally found its track after many stormy years and now enjoys tranquillity and security," Ahmadinejad said in his meeting with Suleiman.
Ahmadinejad said Lebanese resistance against Israel had turned Lebanon into a symbol of courage in the region.
Suleiman said he hoped the Tehran-Beirut summit would lead to strengthened bilateral ties.