Lebanese Prime Minister Najib Mikati’s government has officially signed an industrial agreement between Lebanon and Iran, bringing the total number of agreements to 27. Some of these date back to 1996, with the most recent having been signed during former Prime Minister Saad Hariri’s visit to Iran.
Mikati held talks May 4  with First Vice-President of Iran Mohammad Reza Rahimi during a Higher Iranian-Lebanese Committee meeting in the Grand Serail (the Government Palace) in Beirut. A number of ministers and officials from the two countries also attended the meeting.
Three executive programs were signed as part of a previous memorandum of understanding. Rahimi and President Michel Suleiman talked extensively, and Rahimi invited him to attend the Non-Aligned States’ Conference, which will be held in Tehran late this year. Rahimi also met with Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri, who held a banquet in his honor. Rahimi’s itinerary also included meeting with Hezbollah Secretary-General Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah and visiting southern Lebanon (specifically, Maron Garden and the Fatima Gate). During these meetings, Rahimi affirmed Iran’s ongoing readiness to help Lebanon in any way possible.
Ministerial sources in attendance said that the atmosphere at the higher committee meeting was excellent, and that it reinforced Iran's full support for Lebanon on political, economic and developmental levels. Rahimi also expressed Iran's full support for both Syria and its president, regardless of the interference to which it is subjected. He also reiterated Iran's support for the resistance in Lebanon and Palestine.
Sources told As-Safir that in the meeting, which lasted two hours, officials discussed the proceedings of a previous Ministerial Technical Committee meeting, as well as ways to strengthen relations between the two countries. They also discussed the agreements signed between them — which have not been implemented for political or technical reasons — and ways of initiating and implementing these agreements in the future.
According to the same sources, the discussions addressed Iranian support for Lebanon in terms of energy, electricity and oil, as well as economic support in the industrial, agricultural and commercial sectors, and assistance in establishing dams. Iran has donated $40 million for building a dam in the Batroun region of Lebanon.
Presumably, Iran will send engineers to Lebanon to survey the dam's location now that a donation agreement has been signed.
Sources added that Rahimi expressed Iran’s readiness to provide Lebanon with electricity by linking it to the grid via Iraq and Syria. He said that he will establish contacts with Iraq to discuss the conditions and specifics of the transmission lines. Rahimi also said that Iran is ready to help construct electrical plants.
Sources said that Ira’s aid, including its financial donation toward the construction of the dam, does not carry any political conditions. Moreover, its aid to Lebanon is not subject to the Western sanctions against Iran.
Following the Higher Iranian-Lebanese Committee meeting, three executive programs were signed under a previous memorandum of understanding. The first was signed by the Minister of Industry Freij Sabounjian and the Iranian minister of Roads and Transportation, engineer Ali Nikzad. The second was signed by the Lebanese chairman of the Lebanese Standards Institution (LIBNOR) board of directors, Habib Ghaziri, and Iran’s Murteza Emami Rawedni, Director of the Center of Standards and Specifications. This program seeks to expand scientific and technical cooperation between Lebanon and Iran, especially in terms of standards, exchange of information, expertise and training. The third executive program, which concerns the mutual recognition of certificates, was signed by Lebanon’s Director General of the Industrial Research Institute, Dr. Bassam Frenn, and Rawedni on behalf of Iran.
Furthermore, Mikati and Rahimi signed a report which confirmed the outcome of their talks. The report includes endeavors to develop relations according to their agendas and "in respect of Lebanon's international obligations."
The following Lebanese ministers also attended the meeting: Minister of Foreign Affairs Adnan Mansour, Minister of Economy Nicolas Nahhas, Minister of Agriculture Hussein Hajj Hassan, Minister of Health Ali Hassan Khalil, Minister of Energy Gebran Bassil, Minister of Social Affairs Wael Abu Faour and Minister of Industry Freij Sabounjian.
Speaking at a press conference with Mikati, Rahimi affirmed his country's support for Mikati’s government, and said that there are few countries in the region that are as democratic and free as Lebanon.
He also condemned foreign intervention in Syrian affairs and any form of violence. Rahimi reiterated Iran's firm and unequivocal support of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s reforms. "The president must be given a chance to talk to his people and the Syrian opposition in order to reach a suitable political solution, which would ultimately lead to a Syrian government being formed that is capable of implementing the required political reforms," he added.
He continued, “We also talked about the four Iranian diplomats who were kidnapped in Lebanon by treacherous Zionists in 1982. Iran will relentlessly follow these two cases as it searches for evidence related to the missing Imam Musa al-Sadr and the four Iranian diplomats.”
Responding to reporters’ questions, Rahimi said, "Iran does not mind transferring energy and establishing power plants to produce energy. In fact, it is pressed to do so."
Mikati thanked Iran for continually supporting the Lebanese government’s efforts to maintain stability in Lebanon and to promote unity and solidarity among its citizens. Because of this stability, Lebanon has remained immune to the events taking place in several Arab countries, particularly in Syria. Mikati stressed that Lebanon must not become involved in Iran’s internal affairs, and he hopes that the Islamic Republic will find peaceful solutions to its dilemmas, as opposed to violence, conflicts and bloodshed.
The Lebanese prime minister also emphasized the Palestinians’ right of return and their right to establish an independent state with Jerusalem as its capital. Mikati prohibits Palestinians from resettling in Lebanon and stressed the need to implement all related international resolutions that form the basis of the Arab Peace Initiative.
In reference to Rahimi’s visit, which coincided with US Senator Joseph Lieberman and diplomat Jeffrey Feltman’s visit to Lebanon, Mikati said that “it is not the first time that all parties meet in Lebanon. Lebanon has always been open to all Arab, regional and international countries. The visit was a pure coincidence. Lebanon’s higher interest requires us to have excellent relations with all parties without exception.”
For his part, Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah renewed his thanks “to the resistance in Lebanon and Iran, and to Iran’s government and people for their constant support for the Lebanese government, people and resistance, and for bearing the burden and consequences of their humanitarian position towards Lebanon.” Nasrallah has also confirmed the Islamic resistance’s capability to face any and all challenges, and that its victory is inevitable.
According to a report issued by Hezbollah’s Media Relations Department, the Iranian minister stressed Iran’s "readiness to stand by Lebanon in all circumstances.”
Berri: Addressing a seditious culture
Speaker Nabih Berri hosted a lunch banquet for the Iranian delegation in Ain al-Tineh, where he delivered a lengthy speech for the occasion. “Those who are behind the events taking place in the region do not want democratic change. They are trying to awaken the dormant ethnic and sectarian strife lying at the heart of our region’s problems. It is an attempt to divert attention away from the Palestinian cause, which is the only cause that brings Arab and Islamic nations together,” said Berri.
“Igniting tensions, trying to find rifts between Muslims and creating strife simply to pin the blame on Iran for any potential sectarian conflict would undoubtedly dispel the power of the Islamic world. In the face of such threats, we depend on the awareness and responsibility of the Islamic regime in Iran and the Arab leadership to prevent plans of sectarian strife.”
“The Syrian conflict is at our door and yet we are distancing ourselves from it. We fear that Lebanon may only add fuel to the fire. We are trying to promote ourselves as a model of coexistence. However, we must not forget that Syria once extended its hand to Lebanon to save it from sedition. The unity of the Lebanese people, their army and resistance represents Lebanon’s strength against sectarian strife.”
Berri believes that “Iran has tipped the balance in favor of the Arabs and their cause — they do not promote sectarian culture. Rather, Iran espouses a culture of Islamic resistance, which poses a threat to international powers that place Israel’s security above all else. Iran does not seek to create a Shiite front in the region, nor does it seek to alter its system and security. Thus, international and regional mobilization against the so-called Shiite Crescent is nothing but a conspiracy against the region, its culture, ideology and interests.”
“There are certain media and security apparatuses that have been working around the clock to start a “propaganda” war against the Shiite Crescent in order to justify the ethnic and sectarian strife in Iraq. The same kind of propaganda was spread to justify the ongoing war against Syria, which is designed to target the Syrian structure and resistance,” Berri added.
The Lebanese speaker has also called for “diligence in preventing any attempts to stir up sectarian tensions.” He has also urged all concerned parties to turn to Al-Azhar, the Vatican and Najaf for guidance. “We must fight against the culture of extremism which distorts religion and turns it into a political tool.”
Rahimi later traveled to south Lebanon, where he visited the village of Maroun al-Ras. He was welcomed by MP Hasan Fadlallah in “Iran’s Garden.” Rahimi spoke about Lebanon, Palestine, Syria and Bahrain and expressed “his pride and happiness for being in this pure and blessed spot.” The Iranian senior official sent greetings from Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
With reference to the Israel’s separation wall on the Lebanese border, Rahimi said that “the Israeli enemy is cornered. That is why it is building a separation wall between it and the resistance.” He added that Hezbollah and the resistance have become a model for the entire Arab and Islamic world.
For his part, the mayor of Maroun al-Ras gave a welcome speech in honor of Rahimi, followed by MP Hasan Fadlallah. Fadlallah talked about Iran’s humanitarian aid in rebuilding the southern village, stressing that the village was bombed by rockets and aircraft manufactured in the US.
At the end of the ceremony, Fadlallah presented Rahimi with a piece of the Israeli “Yasur” helicopter, which was shot down by the Lebanese resistance.