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Ahmadinejad to begin controversial Lebanon visit

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Ahmadinejad to begin controversial Lebanon visit
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The visit has divided Lebanon: some banners say “welcome”, others the opposite. Iran’s President Ahmadinejad is due imminently in the country, invited by the Lebanese head of state.

His face adorns billboards and many front pages, not always in the most flattering way.

But the trip gives a boost to Iran’s Shiite ally Hezbollah, puts the cat amongst the pigeons among Lebanon’s western-backed coalition – and for some observers, sends a message of defiance in the face of US attempts to isolate Iran.

“He wants to show the US that Iran is a major powerplayer and must be treated with respect and understanding, and must be engaged (with) instead of (using) confrontation,” said Hilal Khashan, Professor of Political Science at the American University of Beirut.

President Ahmadinejad is also expected to make a symbolic, and for some provocative, visit to the Israeli border. Support for Iran is strong in southern Lebanon, where cash from Tehran has helped rebuild homes damaged in the 2006 war with Israel.

The ramifications from the trip are likely to echo in Beirut and beyond.