EghtesadOnline: Foreign Minister Mohammed Javad Zarif, who was in Beirut on Sunday and Monday, extended Iran's support for the newly-formed Lebanese government in talks with the country’s top officials.
In a meeting on Monday, Zarif and Lebanese President Michel Aoun exchanged views about “political, commercial and economic relations between Iran and Lebanon, and the readiness of Iranian firms for involvement in projects in Lebanon,” ISNA reported.
The Syrian peace process and the situation of the Syrian refugees in Lebanon were also discussed in the meeting.
Iran's top diplomat congratulated Aoun on the formation of the new Lebanese government and hoped it would usher in success and prosperity for the Arab nation, according to Financial Tribune.
Zarif was also scheduled to meet with Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri and Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil later in the day.
The new Lebanese national unity government is led by the western-backed Hariri and incorporates most of the main political factions, including the Hezbollah resistance group, which has expanded its role in the new Cabinet.
Speaking to reporters upon arrival in Beirut on Sunday, Zarif said Iran is ready to assist in all sectors, if the Lebanese government were to so desire, extending an offer for Iranian military assistance to the Lebanese Army.
Asked if Iran was ready to offer military aid, Zarif said, “We always have this type of readiness and we announced on other occasions that this tendency exists in Iran but we are waiting for this desire to exist on the Lebanese side,” Reuters reported.
The comments came a few days after Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah said he was ready to secure air defense systems for the Lebanese Army from Iran to confront Israeli warplanes and to secure “everything it wants to become the strongest army in the region”.
In a speech marking the 40th anniversary of Iran’s Islamic Revolution last week, Nasrallah asked why Lebanon was “ignoring” Iran while “offering our necks to others”, an apparent reference to the United States.
“Will the Lebanese government be brave enough to accept an Iranian offer? Why should Lebanon be afraid to cooperate with Iran?”
Hariri formed a government late last month, after a nine-month power vacuum that exacerbated the country’s economic woes. Iran-backed Hezbollah has three ministers in the new Cabinet, reflecting the gains made by the powerful group in parliamentary elections held in May last year. The group named the health minister, marking the first time it controls a ministry with a large budget.
Hezbollah and groups that support it secured more than 70 of the 128 seats in parliament.
Zarif was the first senior official from the region to visit Lebanon since the formation of the new government. He was met at the airport by a minister from Hezbollah and other officials from the resistance group, which is deeply ingrained in Lebanese politics in addition to its role as an anti-Israel armed group.
In his comments at Beirut airport, Zarif said his visit is aimed at declaring Iran’s support for Lebanon and declaring that its “complete and comprehensive readiness to interact with the brotherly Lebanese government in all areas”.