Iran: President Meets Terror Group Heads In Damascus
By Bill Samii
On the final day of his visit to Damascus, Iranian President Mahmud Ahmadinejad reportedly met on 20 January with the heads of four organizations designated by the United States as terrorist groups.
Among the individuals he met, Lebanon's Al-Manar television reported on 20 January, were Hizballah's Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah, Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) leader Ramadan Abdallah Shallah, and Hamas Political Bureau chief Khalid Mishaal. These three visited Tehran in August, September, and December 2005, respectively. Ahmadinejad also met Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine -- General Command (PFLP-GC) Secretary-General Ahmad Jibril.
Ahmadinejad and the Arabs reportedly discussed the need for unity and resistance in protecting Lebanon. According to Iranian state radio, which reported only that Ahmadinejad met with Hamas and nine other "Palestinian groups," the Iranian president described "resistance, unity and tranquility" as the requirements for defeating U.S. efforts to strengthen "the Qods-occupying regime" (Israel). Al-Arabiyah television from Dubai also reported on Ahmadinejad's meeting with 10 Palestinian factions. The Iranian ambassador in Damascus, Mohammad Hassan Akhtari, said Iran intends to "continue supporting the Lebanese resistance in confronting the Israeli occupation on the remainder of Lebanon's occupied territories," Lebanon's "Al-Diyar" newspaper reported on 20 January.
A 20 January commentary in another Lebanese newspaper, "Sada al-Balad," said Ahmadinejad's visit was not just symbolically supportive. It is to "confirm a real axis of confrontation that possesses the will in resisting American and Israeli policy and possesses the determination and the tools, and is on the path towards possessing a nuclear weapon."
The U.S. State Department classifies Hamas, Hizballah, the PIJ, and the PFLP-GC as terrorist organizations. To earn this designation an entity must be a foreign organization that engages in "terrorist activity" or "terrorism" as defined by U.S. law, or they must "retain the capability and intent to engage in terrorist activity or terrorism" (http://www.state.gov/s/ct/rls/fs/2003/17067.htm). This terrorist activity, furthermore, must threaten the security of U.S. nationals or the national security of the United States.
The State Department identifies Iran and Syria as state sponsors of terrorism. States designated as such are subject to sanctions, including reduced U.S. foreign assistance, a ban on acquiring defense equipment and other export controls, and a variety of financial restrictions.
Ahmadinejad also met with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad on the final day of his visit. Details of their meeting were not made available, though a joint statement was released in which Syria stated that it supports Tehran's right to pursue a nuclear program devoted to peaceful purposes.
Copyright (c) 2006. RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036. www.rferl.org
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