Shiite women at Wednesday's funeral
Shiite women at Wednesday's funeral of Hezbollah militants killed in the Iranian embassy bombing. Photo by AFP
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Hezbollah's deputy leader Sheikh Naim Qassem. Photo by AP

A day after 25 people were killed in twin suicide bombings outside the Iranian embassy in Beirut, a Hezbollah leader appealed for calm and an easing of sectarian tensions on Wednesday.

"The solution to this confrontation begins politically," the Shi'ite Muslim group's deputy leader, Sheikh Naim Qassem, said on Lebanese radio, calling for unity.

"Then there are security and military steps by the (Lebanese) authorities ... in addition to attempts to calm the arena and reduce the transmission of sectarian poisons." He did not specify what security and military steps were needed.

The remarks by Qassem, the most senior Hezbollah official to speak publicly about Tuesday's bombings, suggested a restrained response from Hezbollah, which is funded by Iran and has sent fighters to Syria to support President Bashar al-Assad.

Saudi Arabia, a Sunni regional foe of Iran and Hezbollah, condemned the embassy bombing on Wednesday.

Hezbollah's military role in Syria has helped to inflame sectarian tension both there and in Lebanon. Many Lebanese Sunnis back the Syrian rebels, while many Shi'ites support Assad, whose minority Alawite sect derives from Shi'ite Islam.

Qassem dismissed Lebanese fears that the Iranian embassy attack presaged more violence, including suicide attacks, which are far more common in Iraq and Syria. Lebanon has "not yet reached the point where it can be compared to Iraq", he said.

Funerals for victims of the bombing took place on Wednesday, including in the southern suburbs of Beirut where Hezbollah has a strong presence. Thousands of people gathered in a car park where four coffins were placed, each shrouded in a yellow Hezbollah flag. Hezbollah fighters, some wearing green or red berets, stood near the coffins as the crowds chanted pro-Hezbollah slogans and pumped their fists.