Hezbollah's gift for Ahmadinejad: An Israeli rifle

AP News
Posted: Oct 15, 2010 7:17 AM
Hezbollah's gift for Ahmadinejad: An Israeli rifle

The leader of Hezbollah gave Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad a unique gift to cap off his two-day trip to Lebanon _ an Israeli assault rifle captured during the militant group's 2006 war with the Jewish state.

Sheik Hassan Nasrallah presented the weapon _ in a felt-lined box with a row of bullets _ during a meeting at the Iranian embassy in Beirut late Thursday, Hezbollah said in a statement.

Hezbollah and Israel fought a 34-day war in 2006 after the Shiite militant group captured two Israeli soldiers in a cross-border raid. Some 1,200 Lebanese and 160 Israelis were killed in the fighting.

Iran, whose ties to Hezbollah date back nearly 30 years, funds the militant group to the tune of millions of dollars a year and is believed to supply much of its arsenal. Hezbollah boasts widespread support among Lebanese Shiites and runs a virtual state-within-a-state in Shiite areas of the country.

During a visit to the town of Bint Jbeil near the Israeli border on Thursday, Ahmadinejad delivered a speech in which he taunted Israel, saying "the world should know that the Zionists will perish."

Ahmadinejad also warned Israel not to attack Lebanon, saying a new war would "lead nowhere and will shorten the life of the usurping entity."

Ahmadinejad's first state visit to Lebanon was turned into a show of strength by Hezbollah, which shares power in a fragile unity government with a Western-backed coalition.

The American and Israeli governments criticized the visit as an unnecessary provocation.