- Title: Iran's foreign minister is first to meet Lebanon's new president
- Date: 7th November 2016
- Summary: BEIRUT, LEBANON (NOVEMBER 7, 2016) (REUTERS) ****WARNING CONTAINS FLASH PHOTOGRAPHY*** VARIOUS ZARIF ARRIVING WITH LEBANESE FOREIGN MINISTER GEBRAN BASSIL VARIOUS ZARIF AND BASSIL SEATED DURING A MEETING VARIOUS OF LEBANESE AND IRANIAN FLAGS AND MINISTERS SEATED VARIOUS OF LEBANESE FLAGS ON BACKDROP ZARIF ARRIVES FOR NEWS CONFERENCE WITH BASSIL (SOUNDBITE) (Farsi) IRANIAN FOREIGN MINISTER MOHAMMAD JAVAD ZARIF SAYING: "The Lebanese people showed it is possible to reach a solution acceptable to all, or what we call a win-win situation, we hope others also come to this understanding that there can only be a political solution to the crises in Syria, Iraq and Yemen, but while continuing the fight against terrorism." VARIOUS OF JOURNALISTS AT NEWS CONFERENCE AND ZARIF AT PODIUM (SOUNDBITE) (Farsi) IRANIAN FOREIGN MINISTER MOHAMMAD JAVAD ZARIF SAYING: "In my meeting with Saad al-Hariri tomorrow I will emphasise Iran's determination to cooperate with all Lebanese people, from any group or ethnicity." VARIOUS OF IRANIAN FLAG
- Embargoed: 22nd November 2016 20:35
- Keywords: politics government Hariri Hezbollah Iran Syria elections
- Location: BAABDA AND BEIRUT, LEBANON
- City: BAABDA AND BEIRUT, LEBANON
- Country: Lebanon
- Topics: Diplomacy/Foreign Policy,Government/Politics
- Reuters ID: LVA00257G6L3B
- Aspect Ratio: 16:9
- Story Text: EDITORS PLEASE NOTE: THIS EDIT CONTAINS MATERIAL WHICH WAS ORIGINALLY 4:3
Iran's Mohammad Javad Zarif on Monday (November 7) became the first foreign minister to meet Lebanon's new president, a move that underscored Tehran's tussle for influence in Beirut with its regional arch rival Saudi Arabia.
A Christian leader and close ally of Lebanon's Iran-backed Shi'ite Muslim group Hezbollah who was elected president last week, Michel Aoun also met an envoy sent by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad earlier in the day.
Syrian envoy Mansour Azzam, who is head of presidential affairs, greeted Aoun on behalf of Syria's Assad, saying he hoped Aoun's election would contribute to stability in Lebanon and in the region.
Azzam said there would be "no new page" in Syria-Lebanon relations and they would continue in a balanced way.
Iran, which welcomed Aoun's election as a victory for Hezbollah, is a political and military ally of Assad in the Syrian civil war. Assad's troops are supported by Iran-backed militias and Hezbollah fighters from neighbouring Lebanon.
Zarif, who was accompanied by a high profile political and economic delegation, said he hoped to expand ties with Lebanon and that the country had shown a political solution was possible to the conflicts in Syria, Iraq and the Yemen.
"The Lebanese people showed it is possible to reach a solution acceptable to all, or what we call a win-win situation, we hope others also come to this understanding that there can only be a political solution to the crises in Syria, Iraq and Yemen, but while continuing the fight against terrorism."
Former army commander Michel Aoun was elected by the Lebanese parliament as president last Monday, ending a 29-month presidential vacuum. Aoun then asked Sunni Muslim leader Saad al-Hariri to start consultations to form a new government of which Hariri would be prime minister.
The empty presidency was a symptom of an underlying political struggle between rival factions in Lebanon, which has been made worse by the war in neighbouring Syria. It has paralysed decision-making, economic development and basic services, and raised fears for the country's stability.
The deal to appoint Aoun as president and Hariri as prime minister has underscored Hezbollah's dominant role in Lebanon. It has also demonstrated a diminished position for Hariri's main regional backer, Sunni Saudi Arabia, which seems more focused on confronting Iranian influence elsewhere in the region.
Saudi Arabia and Shi'ite Iran also back opposing factions in Yemen, Iraq and Bahrain and broke diplomatic ties earlier this year after Riyadh's execution of a Shi'ite cleric and a subsequent attack by protesters on its embassy in Tehran.
Under Lebanon's sectarian power-sharing system, worked out upon independence and confirmed after a bitter 15-year civil war, the president must be a Maronite Christian, the prime minister a Sunni Muslim and the speaker of parliament a Shi'ite Muslim.
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