Iran acting FM slams US-proposed Gaza ceasefire deal in Lebanon visit


Iran's acting foreign minister dismissed a Gaza cease-fire deal proposed by U.S. President Joe Biden and warned Israel against launching an all-out war on Lebanon during a visit to Beirut Monday, his first official diplomatic visit since his predecessor died last month.

Ali Bagheri Kani replaced Hossein Amirabdollahian, a hard-liner close to the paramilitary Revolutionary Guard, who died in a helicopter crash on May 19 in a mountainous area near Iran's border with Azerbaijan, along with Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi and a delegation of other officials.

Tehran, a key backer of the Palestinian militant group in the Gaza Strip, backs a number of armed factions in the region, of which Lebanese Shiite militant group Hezbollah is widely seen as the most powerful. Hezbollah would be Tehran's first line of defense in case of a direct conflict between Iran and Israel.

Hezbollah has been clashing with Israeli forces along the Lebanon-Israel border since October, against the backdrop of Israel's war against the allied Hamas group in Gaza. The cross-border fighting has intensified in recent weeks, since Israel's incursion into the key town of Rafah in southern Gaza.

"If the Americans are honest, then instead of proposing plans under the name of ceasefire, they must take one step, which is end all aid to the Israeli entity," Bagheri Kani said in a news conference at the Iranian embassy in Beirut.

"Only once the aid is cut from the Israeli entity, the entity won't have the tools and ability to commit crimes against the Palestinians and the war will end."

Hamas said they received the multi-staged proposal that includes freeing the hostages and pouring aid into Gaza along with a path to a permanent cease-fire "positively", while Israel maintains that Hamas' military wing and ability to govern the Palestinian enclave must be destroyed in order for the war to end.

Regional meditators Qatar and Egypt have urged both sides to endorse the proposal.

Bagheri Kani met with Lebanese counterpart Abdallah Bouhabib as well as Lebanese Speaker of Parliament Nabih Berri and caretaker Prime Minister Najib Mikati. He said he also met with Palestinian factions and others, but declined to give further information until official statements are released.

Bouhabib said Lebanon wants to avoid a wider war and is looking for "sustainable solutions that restore calm and stability to southern Lebanon."

The Iranian foreign minister said Israel would find itself in a quagmire should it launch an all-out war in Lebanon against Hezbollah, a country he described as the "cradle of resistance."

"The entity which is trapped in the swamp in Gaza, if it had the basic rationality, shouldn't put itself in a similar situation with the strong Lebanese resistance," Bagheri Kani said.

The danger of a direct conflict between Iran and Israel has also risen since Oct. 7.

Bagheri Kani is set to visit neighboring Syria Tuesday, where an apparent Israeli airstrike on an Iranian diplomatic building in Damascus in April put the Middle East on a knife edge, unleashing series of escalatory attacks that threatened to set off a wider regional war.

The two regional archrivals have recently seemed to dial back tensions, but fears persist as Hezbollah and other Iran-backed groups say they will continue to strike Israel until the war in Gaza ends.

The fighting along the Lebanon-Israeli border killed more than 400 people on the Lebanese side — most of them militants but also including more than 70 civilians and noncombatant — and at least 15 soldiers and 10 civilians on the Israeli side.

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