Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Al-Hariri stressed that he had not accused Hezbollah of the assassination of former prime minister Rafiq Al-Hariri, he told the official IRNA news on the eve of his planned two day visit to Tehran. He added that the ‘false witnesses’ affair is being handled within its legal framework.
Hariri is to arrive in Tehran on Saturday on his first official visit since his appointment as premier in November 2009. Hariri will be received by Iran’s first vice president, Mohammad-Reza Rahimi, for a one-on-one meeting, which will be followed by an expanded session with officials from both countries.
Hariri is scheduled to hold separate talks Sunday with Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the Speaker of Iran’s Parliament Ali Larijani, the secretary of the Supreme National Security Council Saeed Jalili and Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki, topped off by a meeting with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
The trip comes amid a tense political standoff between Hariri's pro-Western camp and Hezbollah over a UN tribunal probing the 2005 assassination of Hariri's father, ex-premier Rafiq Hariri.
The split has paralysed Hariri’s National Unity cabinet, which has not met for three weeks due to a dispute over the issue of the “false witnesses” who allegedly misled the UN probe into Hariri’s killing.
In his interview with the Iranian agency, Hariri was yet again keen to criticise leaks surrounding the Special Tribunal for Lebanon’s indictment saying that they jeopardise justice.
The tribunal is expected to implicate high-ranking Hezbollah officials in the murder, a move the group has repeatedly warned against, prompting fears of a sectarian conflict between Hariri's Sunni supporters and the Shia Hezbollah.
For its part, the Saudi daily Al Sharq Alwsat has published a full transcript of the interview.
Hariri stressed the Islamic Republic's "natural role in the region, especially in resolving crisis and strengthening stability in Lebanon."
"We consider cooperation [with Iran] as indispensable due to the threats endangering both countries," he said.
He said that threatening the stability of any country in the region threatens the interests of both the Arabs and Iran.
Hariri's visit today comes a little more than a month after Ahmadinejad made a similar visit to Lebanon, where he was given a hero's welcome by supporters of the Iranian-backed Hezbollah.
A Lebanese ministerial source told AFP that Hariri hoped Iran would help to reconcile the two rival groups.
"The Iranians will try to reconcile points of view between Hezbollah and Saad Hariri," the source said.
In return, Hariri would support Iran's "development of nuclear capabilities for civilian and peaceful purposes," the source added.
Iranian ambassador to Lebanon, Ghadanfar Roken Abadi, described Hariri’s visit to Tehran as “important” and “historic,” saying it would have positive results on Lebanon in the next few days.