News ID: 175540
Published: 0534 GMT January 11, 2017

Lebanese president defends Iran ties after Saudi visit

Lebanese president defends Iran ties after Saudi visit

Lebanese President Michel Aoun said after a visit to Saudi Arabia that his country will continue to maintain close ties with Iran.

"We have normal relations with Iran," which "shouldn't be a barrier in the face of normal relations with the Arab world," Aoun said in remarks published by Saudi-run Asharq al-Awsat newspaper on Wednesday, AP reported.

Aoun, an ally of the Lebanese resistance group Hezbollah, visited Saudi Arabia this week, trying to mend relations with the oil-rich monarchy which has traditionally backed Hezbollah's rivals in Lebanon.

The Lebanese president dismissed speculations that Lebanon is envisaging a cap to Iran's support for Hezbollah, saying Tehran has no limit in its plans for assisting the group.

Aoun said Iran's support for Hezbollah "could continue indefinitely".

Iran has maintained warm relations with Hezbollah in a bid to bolster regional resistance against the Israeli regime. Iran provided military assistance to Hezbollah through the years of military confrontation with the Israeli occupation of southern Lebanon, which ended in 2000.

Iran and Hezbollah have also been contributing to the anti-terrorism push in Syria, where terrorist groups supported by governments in the Middle East and the West have been engaged in a brutal war against the Syrian government since 2011.

Aoun flew to Qatar on Wednesday on the second leg of his first trip abroad since he was elected in October. He became president after a 29-month vacuum in the country's top post. Lebanon's political factions are deeply divided, with some, like Aoun's party and Hezbollah, aligning with Iran, and their opponents siding with Saudi Arabia.

In December, the Parliament approved a national unity government headed by Lebanon's top Saudi ally, Saad Hariri. He endorsed Aoun, ending the deadlock.

Saudi Arabia halted a $3-billion arms deal with Lebanon in February and banned Saudis and other Persian Gulf nationals from traveling there.

Aoun said he discussed the arms deal with Saudi officials, without elaborating. He said "the decision about the return of the tourists has been taken," which means a "return to normal relations".




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