Iran Offers to Protect Lebanon and Hezbollah Defense Needs

Lebanon PM visits Tehran amid mutual efforts to deepen relations, will also hold talks with Ahmadinejad.

Iran is prepared to cover the defense needs of both Lebanon and the anti-Israel Hezbollah movement, the ISNA news agency reported on Sunday.

"Iran has constantly said that it would be beside the Lebanese army and resistance [Hezbollah] and ready to cover the country's defense needs," Iran's Defense Minister Ahmad Vahidi said at a military fair in Tehran also attended by visiting Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri, according to ISNA.

Hariri in Iran

Hariri welcomed the Iranian offer and called for a closer cooperation between the two countries' defence ministries, ISNA said.

Hariri arrived in Tehran on Saturday and is scheduled to meet with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad later Sunday.

As a symbol of Iran's solidarity with Lebanon, Vahidi presented Hariri an Iran-made machine-gun.

In a meeting earlier Sunday with Vice-President Mohammad Reza Rahimi, the two sides urged a deepening of relations in all fields.

But Hariri's visit has been overshadowed by Iran's support for Hezbollah, which leads the opposition against his Western-backed government.

The rift between the two factions has widened after reports that the United Nations-backed tribunal investigating the 2005 assassination of Hariri's father, former premier Rafik Hariri, was ready to indict Hezbollah members for the murder.

Iranian media quoted Hariri as saying Sunday that he was the leader of the "unity government" and hence represented all political parties and groups in Lebanon.