Ahmadinejad tells Saudi king he wants united Lebanon

TEHRAN : Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad told Saudi King Abdullah in a telephone call that the aim of his visit to Lebanon last week was to promote its unity, his office said on Thursday.The conversation between the two leaders their second in eight days came as the regional arch-rivals have been competing for influence in both Lebanon and Iraq.Praising King Abdullah’s own visit to Lebanon in July, Ahmadinejad said: “We too have now traveled to Lebanon so the efforts to create unity and solidarity are complete.“In this trip, I talked to all of our Lebanese brothers about unity and they welcomed it,” his office’s website quoted him as telling the Saudi monarch.Iran and Saudi Arabia support rival political alliances in Lebanon that sit uneasily together in a government of national unity.Saudi Arabia and Western governments back the majority bloc in parliament of Prime Minister Saad Hariri.Iran and its regional ally Syria support the minority bloc led by Shiite militant group Hezbollah, Lebanon’s most powerful political and military force, which fought a devastating 2006 war with Israel.Ahmadinejad received a hero’s welcome from Hezbollah and its supporters during his October 13-14 visit, during which he traveled to the Israeli border.The Iranian leader last spoke to the Saudi monarch the day before the visit, which drew strong criticism from Israel and the United States.

In its report on Wednesday’s phone conversation, Iran’s official IRNA news agency said that Ahmadinejad and the king discussed a range of international developments as well as ways to boost relations.Iran and Saudi Arabia have also been competing for influence in Iraq where they have backed rival sides in the protracted battle for the premiership since an inconclusive March election between incumbent Nuri al-Maliki and former Prime Minister Iyad Allawi.audi Arabia has been a strong supporter of Allawi, whose Iraqiya bloc drew most of its support from Iraq’s Sunni Arab minority, regarding him as a counterweight to Iran’s influence among the Shiite majority, analysts say.

Allawi visited Riyadh earlier this month while Maliki was in Tehran on Monday as part of a regional tour to drum up support for his candidacy for the premiership.Both men have hit out at what they say is foreign meddling in Iraqi political affairs.At a meeting of regional interior ministers in Manama last month, Saudi Interior Minister Prince Nayef bin Abdul Aziz too spoke out against outside interference.“We are closely following the situation in Iraq and we clearly see gross interference in its internal affairs,” Prince Nayef said, without elaborating – Sananews