Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who is on a two-day visit to Lebanon, spoke before a mass rally organized in is honor by Hezbollah at the Dahiya quarter of Beirut, which is considered one of the Shiite group's strongholds.
Wednesday's rally, which saw masses gather at a local soccer field, waving Iranian flags and chanted "Welcome" in Persian, was missing Hezbollah Chief Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah, who welcomed Ahmadinejad to Lebanon via a video feed from his bunker: "I welcome you here on behalf of the injured, the dead, the released prisoners and this people, who have fought to create the miracle of victory. You are a steadfast staff for the resistance."
"I come from the land of the Imam Khomeini, bearing the best wishes of the Iranian people and its leaders," Ahmadinejad told the masses. "Lebanon is the an example and school for unwavering resistance to the world's tyrants and a university for Jihad. Visiting Lebanon and meeting the leaders is a dream come true for me."
Ahmadinejad spoke in Persian and used an interpreter.
The Iranian leader wasted no time in attacking Israel for violating the Palestinians' rights: "Do you see anything but crimes in the past actions of the Zionist regime? The massacre of innocent people, the use of weapons, razing homes, confiscating medicine, food and water, attacking civilians in international waters and threatening the world is an everyday occurrence for them."
The West, he added, considers Israel "means of dominating the world," and to that end it has given it nuclear weapons.
'Israel's weakness exposed'
Turning his attention to the Second Lebanon War and Operation Cast Lead, the Iranian president said the two military campaigns "exposed Israel's weakness… it is also possible that those barbaric Zionists will seek a new regional adventure to try and compensate. I say – any attack will only bring this phony regime closer to its end."
'A dream come true.' Ahmadinejad
As for the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, the talks are taking place while Israel "is perpetuating the occupation and disrespects International Law," he said. "The only way to resolve the problems in Palestine and bring peace to the region is to recognize the rights of the Palestinians, allow the refugees to return to their land and send the conquerors back to their homelands. The Zionists must return Palestine to its true owner, or they will be obliterated by the wrath of the Palestinian people."
Ahmadinejad accused Israel once more of kidnapping four Iranian diplomats 28 years ago. Israel has denied any involvement in the case, but according to the Iranian leader, "There is clear documentation that they are alive and held in a Zionist prison. The Zionists are responsible for their well being and must allow the Red Cross to visit them."
Iran and Hezbollah's grand plan
"There is negative talk in the Middle East about the Iranian plan, and they are planning to counter it, but I can testify – the Iranians want the same thing as the Palestinians," Nasrallah – speaking from his bunker – told the masses attending the rally.
"The Iranian and Palestinian plan is to see all the land, from river to sea, return to its owners. This was Khomeini's stand and Ahmadinejad said as much in his UN address – Israel is not a legitimate country. As for Lebanon, they want it to be a liberated, respectable country."
Turning the tables?
Eelier Wednesday, the Iranian president met with his Lebanese counterpart Michel Suleiman. After the meeting, Ahmadinejad was quoted as saying that "Lebanon has changed the equation of hostility in the region, turning the tables in its favor."
As for Israel, the Iranian leader said that Lebanon and the Islamic Republic were "two nations that love each other and share common interests. Both peoples object to the occupation and crimes perpetrated by the Zionist enemy. We support the Palestinian refugees return to their conquered land and the bitter fights against Zionist aggression."
The Hezbollah chief went on to laud the Iranian regime: "They have always supported us. Some say that Iran is the cause for internal strife, but Iran is one of the biggest sources for solidarity in the Islamic world."
Meanwhile, the White House condemned the visit, saying Ahmadinejad's visit to Lebanon showed he was continuing his "provocative ways."
Jerusalem also harshly criticized the visit, saying that Ahmadinejad's visit to Lebanon "illustrates how Lebanon has turned into a, Iranian satellite nation, thus joining the axis of radical countries which oppose the peace process and support terror."
Commenting on the Iranian leader's Hezbollah ties, the source said that Ahmadinejad "arrived in Lebanon like a commander arriving to inspect his troops, Hezbollah terrorists, who act as the Iranian military arm in the area.
"Anyone who holds freedom and peace dear is concerned with the Iranian defiance; and Lebanon, which could have enjoyed peace and prosperity, has turned – led by Hezbollah – into a lackey for Iranian aggression."
Roee Nahmias and Dudi Cohen contributed to this report
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