Dubai: Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad praised Lebanese resistance against Israel yesterday while addressing thousands of Hezbollah's supporters near the border with Israel.
During his speech in the town of Bint Jbeil, Ahmadinejad called on Lebanon to be the role model for the region's nations. The border town became the symbol of resistance against Israel during the 2006 war in which it was nearly reduced to rubble.
As the Iranian president was delivering his speech, Israeli helicopters could be seen flying close by. Bint Jbeil is just 4 km from the border and Israel's Channel 2 Television said echoes of the rousing welcome accorded to Ahmadinejad were audible on the Israeli side minutes before he arrived.
"I announce that Bint Jbeil is alive and is standing," Ahmadinejad said. "They [the enemies] have no way but surrender to the nations and go back to their first homes ... Palestine will ... be freed," he thundered. Banners hung around the city hailing Iran's assistance in rebuilding roads, bridges, hospitals and schools.
Pictures of overturned Israeli tanks and weeping Israeli soldiers were also posted at the entrance to Bint Jbeil.
Roads across south Lebanon were adorned with Iranian flags and posters of the visiting dignitary. A giant picture of Ahmadinejad, bearing the message "We Can" was hoisted at an Iran-ian-built park in the hilltop border village of Marun Al Ras, which faces Israel.
Ahmadinejad's visit has given a big boost to Hezbollah, an anti-Israeli militant outfit, ahead of a UN-backed tribunal decision to indict some of its members for the murder of former Lebanese prime minister Rafik Hariri in 2005.
The tribunal and Ahmadinejad's subsequent visit has stirred tension in the highly volatile country.