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Zarif Begins Lebanon Visit, Lauds Salam's 'Major Role' in 'Stability, Anti-Terror Fight'

Iran's Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif began a two-day visit to Lebanon on Tuesday by meeting Prime Minister Tammam Salam.

“We discussed cooperation between the two countries and bilateral ties,” said Zarif after the Grand Serail talks.

“We appreciate the major role that was played by the prime minister of Lebanon to provide security, fight extremism and terror, and find cooperation among the various Lebanese parties,” the FM added.

He noted that Salam's role has led to “more calm, stability and security in this country.”

Addressing the domestic Lebanese disputes, Zarif noted that “the time is not for competition and rivalry in Lebanon.”

“If there should be competition, it must be over building Lebanon,” he added.

“The Islamic Republic of Iran supports the Lebanese people and their demands,” Zarif went on to say.

Agence France-Presse quoted an official who attended the meeting as saying that Salam and Zarif discussed Lebanon's ongoing presidential vacuum and agreed there should be more discussion on this topic.

Upon his arrival at Beirut's Rafik Hariri International Airport earlier in the day, the minister had hoped the nuclear deal between his country and world powers would “pave the way to opening a new chapter of ties between countries in the region.”

He emphasized that his talks with Lebanese officials will tackle cooperation between Beirut and Tehran.

“We are in a great need of dialogue and cooperation to confront regional challenges,” added the foreign minister.

Earlier, media reports said that he will stress to Lebanese officials that Tehran's stance towards Syria and Hizbullah has not changed.

Diplomatic sources told al-Joumhouria daily that Zarif would send a clear message to the parties claiming Iran will turn its back on Syria and Hizbullah that Tehran continues to back its allies in the region.

Many critics have said that a nuclear deal signed between Iran and major powers in Vienna last month will lead to a change in the Iranian stance.

During his two-day official visit, Zarif is also scheduled to meet with Speaker Nabih Berri, Foreign Minister Jebran Bassil and Hizbullah chief Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah.

It was not clear if the Iranian Foreign Minister would also visit Free Patriotic Movement leader MP Michel Aoun in Rabieh.

The July 14 deal between Iran and six world powers — the U.S., Britain, France, Russia, China and Germany — is meant to curb Tehran's nuclear program in exchange for lifting sanctions.

In addition to his talks on the deal, Zarif is expected to discuss with the Lebanese officials ways to improve bilateral economic cooperation, the sources told al-Joumhouria.

They said that despite years of sanctions, Iran was able to make major progress in power production.

Lebanon can benefit from Tehran in that regard, the sources added.

G.K./M.T./Y.R.


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