Iran backs 'free' Lebanon, Khatami tells Chirac

6th April 2005, Comments 0 comments

PARIS, April 5 (AFP) - Iran supports a "free, democratic and independent" Lebanon, Iranian President Mohammad Khatami said Tuesday after meeting with French counterpart Jacques Chirac.

PARIS, April 5 (AFP) - Iran supports a "free, democratic and independent" Lebanon, Iranian President Mohammad Khatami said Tuesday after meeting with French counterpart Jacques Chirac.

"Iran and France are in agreement to make every effort to preserve peace and stability in Lebanon," Khatami said. "What we are looking for is a Lebanon that is free, democratic and independent."

When asked about the Shiite movement Hezbollah, which is widely considered to be backed by Damascus and Tehran, Khatami insisted Iran had no power over the group.

"Hezbollah is a real power in Lebanon," Khatami said."This party symbolises the resistance against foreign aggression. Hezbollah is independent, it isn't influenced by anybody and not by Iran."

A spokesman for Chirac, Jerome Bonnafont, said the French president had "emphasised the importance of dialogue between the parties in Lebanon and expressed the wish that Hezbollah finds its place as a major political party in Lebanese democracy".

In the face of a UN Security Council resolution passed last September, Syria has vowed to withdraw all of its troops from Lebanon ahead of parliamentary elections due later this year, ending a nearly three-decade military presence.

Shiite Iran retains considerable influence among its co-religionists in Lebanon and joined Syria in backing Hezbollah in its armed struggle against Israel's occupation of southern Lebanon until 2000.

The two Middle East allies have faced mounting US pressure in recent months - Iran particularly over its nuclear programme, and Syria over its domination of Lebanese affairs and its alleged sheltering of Iraq fugitives.

Both governments also stand accused by Washington of "state terrorism".

© AFP

Subject: French News

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