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Iran Seeks Deeper Ties With Lebanon's New Hizballah-Backed Leader

Lebanon's new President Michel Aoun (file photo)

Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif became the first foreign minister to visit Lebanon's new President Michel Aoun on November 7, with the goal of deepening ties between Tehran and Aoun's Hizballah-backed government.

The Shi'ite militant group and predominantly Shi'ite Iran are close allies in the Syrian war.

Aoun's recent appointment by Lebanon's parliament broke a 29-month impasse during which the country's two main political blocs -- one backed by Saudi Arabia and the other by Iran -- sabotaged 45 previous attempts to select a president.

Calling Aoun's election a "victory," Zarif said: "We believe that this unique Lebanese experience can be the key to break the political deadlock in Iraq, Syria, and Yemen." Those are all countries where Tehran and rival Riyadh back opposing sides in a war.

Zarif was accompanied on his visit by a large economic delegation. Lebanon and Iran hope to broaden their trade. Iran is emerging from years of international economic sanctions, while Lebanon hopes to revitalize an economy dragged down by years of political crisis.

Zarif meets with Saudi-backed Prime Minister Saad Hariri on November 8. Hariri's endorsement of Aoun made it possible to form Lebanon's new coalition government.

Based on reporting by AP and dpa