Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad visited with the head of Hezbollah at the end of a two-day visit to Lebanon during which he praised the militant faction for its armed struggle against Israel.Iranian state media report Mr. Ahmadinejad met with Hassan Nasrallah in Beirut Thursday, to discuss the president’s state visit and developments in the region.As a token of his appreciation, Nasrallah reportedly gave the Iranian president a pistol that was seized from Israeli military forces by Hezbollah fighters.Mr. Ahmadinejad addressed thousands of cheering supporters at a Hezbollah rally Thursday in the southern Lebanese town of Bint Jbeil, about four kilometers from the tense border with Israel. Praising Lebanon’s resistance, he declared “the Zionists will perish” while the residents of Bint Jbeil would thrive.News reports say Israeli helicopters buzzed on the Israeli side of the Lebanese border as he spoke.A U.S. State Department spokesman said Thursday the Iranian president’s tour of southern Lebanon undermines the country’s sovereignty and regional security.
A spokesman for the Israeli prime minister told VOA Mr. Ahmadinejad’s visit shows Lebanon to be a “client state of Iran.” The spokesman said Lebanon could be a potential partner for peace, but instead is a “hub for regional terrorism, extremism and instability.”Bint Jbeil was badly damaged during Israel’s 2006 war with Hezbollah. Iranian money helped rebuild parts of the area destroyed during the conflict.Later Thursday, Mr. Ahmadinejad visited a memorial in the Lebanese town of Qana, the site of a 1996 Israeli attack that killed more than 100 civilians at a U.N. compound. Israel said the attack occurred because of “incorrect targeting based on erroneous data – Voanews