Iran FM rebuffs Macron remarks over Lebanon ‘interference’

BEIRUT (AFP): Iran’s foreign minister on Friday rejected accusations from France over Tehran’s interference in Lebanon, urging President Emmanuel Macron to focus instead on his own country.

Macron had told a conference of French ambassadors earlier this week that a “key element” to resolve Lebanon’s political crisis was “the clarification of regional interference, including that of Iran”.

“I advise Mr Macron to focus on the situation inside France instead of paying attention to questions of interference in other countries,” Hossein Amir-Abdollahian said during a visit to Beirut.

Mired in a gruelling economic crisis since 2019, Lebanon has been governed by a caretaker cabinet for more than a year and without a president since late October.

Lebanese lawmakers failed 12 times to elect a successor to former president Michel Aoun amid bitter disputes between the powerful Iran-backed Shiite movement Hezbollah and its opponents.

“Iran has always played the most constructive role in helping Lebanon,” Amir-Abdollahian told a press conference at the Iranian embassy.

French special envoy Jean-Yves Le Drian — who has been tasked with helping resolve divisions among Lebanon’s sectarian politicians — is expected in Beirut later this month.

Amir-Abdollahian’s visit is his second since April, when he called on Lebanon to overcome its political deadlock and elect a president, urging foreign governments not to interfere in the choice.

Tehran is the key backer of Lebanon’s powerful Hezbollah group, the only faction that kept its weapons after the end of the 1975-1990 civil war.

Amir-Abdollahian also met Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah during the visit, as well as senior officials from Palestinian factions close to Tehran, including Hamas and Islamic Jihad.

Israel and Hezbollah fought a 34-day war in 2006.

Amir-Abdollahian arrived in Beirut Thursday after a trip to Damascus, where he held talks with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

Iran has long been one of Assad’s main supporters, helping him claw back territory lost to rebels during Syria’s 12-year war.