Iran’s Acting FM Visits Lebanon in First Official Visit Since Predecessor’s Death

BEIRUT (AP) — Iran’s acting foreign minister arrived in Lebanon Monday, his first official diplomatic visit since his predecessor died in a helicopter crash last month.

Iran’s state-run IRNA news agency reported that Ali Bagheri Kani would visit Lebanon and then Syria “to meet with the two countries’ officials as well as the officials of the resistance front to discuss ways to counter (Israel).”

Iran backs a number of armed factions in the region, of which Lebanese Shiite terror 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.

Bagheri Kani’s predecessor, Hossein Amirabdollahian, a hard-liner close to the paramilitary Revolutionary Guard, 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.

Bagheri Kani met with his Lebanese counterpart, Abdallah Bou Habib, on Monday and praised the “close relations” between the two countries. He told reporters that “resistance is the basis for stability in the region.”

“We agreed that all countries in the region, especially the Islamic countries, should adopt a joint movement in order to counter Israeli aggression and protect the Palestinian people, especially in Rafah,” he said.

Bou Habib said Lebanon, for its part, wants to avoid a wider war and is looking for “sustainable solutions that restore calm and stability to southern Lebanon.”

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.

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

An apparent Israeli airstrike on an Iranian consulate in Syria in April triggered a series of escalatory attacks between Iran and Israel that threatened to set off a wider war, although the two regional archrivals have recently seemed to dial back tensions.

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