Hussein Amir-Abdullahian said Tehran would continue to support Lebanon as it fights an economic crisis.
Beirut, Lebanon – Iranian Foreign Minister Hussein Amir-Abdullahian met with Lebanese President Michel Aoun to express Tehran’s desire to support a country in a cash crunch.
Amir-Abdullah will also meet on Thursday with Prime Minister-elect Najib Mikti, Speaker Nabih Berri, Foreign Minister Abdullah Bou Habib and representatives of the Palestinian Authority.
A spokesman for Hezbollah, Iran’s main ally in Lebanon, told Al Jazeera that Amir-Abdullahian would also meet with representatives of the movement, but no date had been set yet.
“I want to declare clearly and firmly that the Islamic Republic of Iran will always be by the side of the fraternal Lebanese republic, as it has always been,” Amir-Abdullahian said at Beirut airport late Wednesday night.
There was a small protest in Beirut on Wednesday against the Iranian foreign minister’s visit, with dozens of protesters calling Iran’s influence in Lebanon growing.
The visit comes almost a month after Mikti returned to his third term as head of Lebanon’s first full-fledged government in more than a year.
Lebanon has plunged three-quarters of its population into poverty in recent months as an energy crisis has severely disrupted public life, with homes and hospitals struggling to keep their lights on. One in four is now dependent on food aid from the United Nations World Food Program.
Amir-Abdullahian said Tehran is committed to supporting Lebanon in breaking the “unjust blockade”.
Last month, Hezbollah facilitated the import of Iranian fuel into the country through the Syrian port of Banias and crossing private borders. Proponents of the movement have hailed the victory as a victory against US sanctions on Syria, Iran and Hezbollah, which the United States has identified as a “terrorist” organization.
Iran-backed Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah has repeatedly expressed interest in boosting trade with Tehran and Beijing, saying he was willing to support Lebanon with fewer sanctions than Western countries.
Hezbollah has expanded its sponsorship and social service networks in the country due to the financial crisis, as state institutions continue to crumble.
Prime Minister Mikti said he wanted to improve relations between Lebanon and the international community, especially in the region. Relations with Hezbollah and Iran’s rival Saudi Arabia are at an all-time low since Riyadh imposed a ban on Lebanese imports in April.
To unlock economic aid, the international community has called on Lebanon to end its corrupt and wasteful spending, restructure its debt-ridden and inefficient power sector, and reform its damaged economy.
Lebanon has resumed technical talks with the International Monetary Fund, hoping to resume talks for a bailout program.