Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s upcoming visit to southern Lebanon has raised concerns among Israeli officials, who are making efforts in order to prevent the visit from taking place.
As part of his visit, schedule to begin on October 13 and continue for two days, Ahmadinejad is planning to visit the border between Lebanon and Israel, where he is expected to throw stones towards the Israeli side of the border as an act of protest against Israel. Several weeks ago, the Iranian president said that the visit to southern Lebanon is important to him, since the area is considered “an Iranian stronghold against the Zionist enemy.”
According to reports, Syrian President Bashar Assad told Ahmadinejad during a meeting between the two, that the Lebanon visit is not advisable at this point in time due to the general political sensitivity in the region. Lebanon itself preferred to avoid a confrontation Ahmadinejad and has announced that it will prepare for his visit.
Israel is also preparing for Ahmadinejad’s visit and is closely monitoring the preparations on the Lebanese side of the border. Lebanon’s Daily Star reported on Monday, citing Israeli media sources, that over the past week, Israel has sent messages to Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri and President Michel Sleiman through UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon as well as the US and French governments. Israel has warned Lebanon that the visit would undermine regional stability and the Middle East peace talks, and as such should be cancelled.
Israel is also hoping to pressure Lebanon to cancel the visit by passing the message that allowing the visit would hurt Lebanon’s status in the international community and cause to look like nothing more than a political puppet. A senior Israeli official said that so far the Israeli efforts through the assistance of the intermediary countries have been received with understanding, but that it remains to be seen whether the talks between these countries and Lebanon will be successful.
AFP reported on Tuesday that the United States has also voiced its concerns regarding Ahmadinejad’s Lebanon visit. US State Department Spokesman Philip Crowley said the issue came up during a recent meeting in New York between Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and President Sleiman.
Speaking to reporters, Crowley said: “We expressed our concern about it [the visit] given that Iran, through its association with groups like Hizbullah, is actively undermining Lebanon’s sovereignty. But again, we respect that these are judgements for the Lebanese government to make.
Ahmadinejad, meanwhile, is continuing to make controversial statements, going so far on Sunday as to curse US leadership.
“May the undertaker bury you, your table and your body, which has soiled the world,” he said during a meeting with military men and clerics near Tehran, reportedly in response to statements from Washington that the military option against Iran is “still on the table.”