Iranian leader in controversial visit to Lebanon

Ahmadinejad will visit Lebanon`s volatile border with arch-enemy Israel.

Last Updated: Oct 11, 2010, 14:49 PM IST

Beirut: Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad arrives in Beirut on Wednesday for a controversial visit, the highlight of which will be a tour of Lebanon`s volatile border with his arch-enemy Israel.

The hardline leader during his two-day official trip -- his first to Lebanon since he became President in 2005 -- will meet with his counterpart Michel Sleiman as well as Prime Minister Saad Hariri and Parliament speaker Nabih Berri.

He will also attend a rally in the Lebanese capital organised on his behalf by the Shi’ite militant group Hezbollah, considered a proxy of Iran.

Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah, whose party fought a devastating war with Israel in 2006 and is blacklisted as a terrorist organisation by Washington, is expected to attend the rally, though it is not known whether he will do so in person or via video link.

He has not appeared in public for more than two years.

But the most anticipated and controversial part of the visit will be on Thursday, when Ahmadinejad is scheduled to tour several villages along Lebanon`s southern border with Israel.

The region was largely destroyed during the 2006 war between Hezbollah and the Jewish state and was rebuilt with the help of Iranian money.

Members of the pro-Western parliamentary majority in Lebanon have described the border visit as a provocation and a defiant message to Israel that Iran`s borders extend to Lebanon.

The United States and Israel have also reacted negatively with the Israeli government saying it could undermine regional stability.

PTI