Mahmoud fuelled his claims that the US government was behind the Sept 11 attack on America and demanded to ‘know the truth of what happened’ during his visit to Lebanon.
By Damien McElroy in Beirut
14 October 2010
Speaking at a late night rally, he said: “I announce that the formation of an independent and neutral team to examine the facts and discover the truth of the September 11 events is the demand of all the peoples of the region and the world.”
Earlier in the day, thousands held up flowers and Iranian flags as Mr Ahmedinejad waved through the open roof of an armoured car that carried him through the Shia Muslim strongholds of south Beirut, the capital.
Hizbollah, local ally, mobilised its followers to throw rice and slaughter camels as the motorcade passed by.
It was, however, a welcome that ran just one street deep and normal life – bereft of Iranian flags – continued yards away from the old airport road used by the Iranian leader to reach a summit with his Lebanese counterpart, Michel Sleiman.
Maura Connelly, the US ambassador, expressed misgivings about the impact of the Iranian leader’s visit and newspapers reported that America had unveiled a $22 million (£13.8 million) package of military aid to strengthen the Lebanese security forces.
“There is a concern we share with the countries in the region that Iran is not playing a helpful role in the region in terms of stability”, she said.
Hillary Clinton, the US Secretary of State, cautioned Mr Ahmadinejad to avoid statements that would inflame tensions in Lebanon.
Mr Ahmadinejad’s trip comes amid tension over an international tribunal for those implicated in the assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri in 2005. Hizbollah has demanded the government withdraw from the tribunal, believing it will seek to prosecute its members.
The Iranian leader took the opportunity during his trip to lash out at Israel following talks with Mr Sleiman.
“We fully support the resistance of the Lebanese people against the Zionist regime,” he said. “Lebanon is not only a source of pride for the Lebanese but for the region because Lebanon has changed the balance of power in favour of the people of the region.”
More friction is expected today (Thurs) when Mr Ahmedinejad travels to Lebanese border towns targeted in the 2006 war that killed more than 1,000 people. Hizbollah has used hundred of millions of dollars donated by Iran for reconstruction of the south and residents expressed gratitude to the Iranian leader. Mahmoud Darwish, a 50-year old local who turned out for Mr Ahmadinejad said: “He helped us rebuild Lebanon. If he hadn’t, our houses would still be destroyed and we would still be living in tents.”