MESOP FOCUS THE MULLAHS OF WAR & DESTRUCTION : Iran ‘proud’ of Qalamoun victory: Khamenei aide

The Daily Star – 18 May 2015 – BEIRUT: The achievements of the Syrian army and Hezbollah in the Qalamoun battle help empower the “axis of resistance,” an adviser to Iran’s Supreme leader Ali Khamenei said Monday during a one-day visit to Beirut for talks with officials. “We feel very proud as we have been watching in the last few days the new victories that the Lebanese resistance and Syrian army are achieving in Qalamoun,” Ali Akbar Velayati said after meeting with Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri at his Beirut residence.

The axis of resistance refers to the partnership between Iran, Syria and Hezbollah in confronting American and Israeli policies. “This contributes to strengthening the axis of resistance not only in Lebanon and Syria, but in the whole region and worldwide.”Velayati, a veteran Iranian diplomat and politician, was received at the airport in the morning by Hezbollah MP Ali Mokdad, representing the party’s leader Sayyed Hasan Nasrallah. Also present at his reception were Iran’s ambassador to Lebanon Mohammad Fathali, and Khalil Hamdan, a member of the Amal Movement’s political bureau. “Resolving the political problems in Lebanon concerns the Lebanese themselves, Velayati told reporters at the airport. “We are confident that thanks to Lebanon’s deep-rooted democracy, the country will eventually find a suitable exit [from the existing crisis] and reach an appropriate solution to fill the presidential void.”

After his meeting with Berri, the Iranian official headed to the Grand Serail to meet with Prime Minister Tammam Salam. He will be holding talks with Free Patriotic Movement leader Michel Aoun at 7 p.m., and is also expected to meet with Hezbollah chief Sayyed Hasan Nasrallah. Velayati served for 16 years as Iran’s foreign minister, and currently heads the Center for Strategic Research, an Iranian think tank on strategy matters that was previously headed by Iranian President Hassan Rouhani. He is Khamenei’s adviser on foreign affairs, and also ran in Iran’s 2013 presidential elections. Asked about the talks that were launched Sunday in Riyadh to find a solution to the Yemeni crisis, Velayati said the dialogue could immediately be dismissed by virtue of where it is being held.

“Saudi Arabia is one of the conflict’s two parties, so it cannot host the dialogue between the two sides,” he said. “The talks should be held in a third, neutral country that is not involved in the Yemeni affair.”

He suggested that the United Nations could handle the dialogue, but insisted that the location was a key aspect to be considered. He also called on Saudi Arabia to halt its “brutal airstrikes against innocent Yemeni civilians.” Yemen’s Houthi fighters have boycotted the three-day dialogue, which is being attended by about 400 delegates, including Yemen’s exiled president Abed-Rabbu Mansour Hadi and Prime Minister Khaled Bahah.The Houthis demanded that the talks be held in Yemen, saying Saudi Arabia cannot host the talks while it bombs the country. After the meeting with Salam, Velayati commented on the developments in Iraq, a day after ISIS took control of Ramadi, the capital of the western Anbar province. “I think that similarly to Tikrit, Ramadi will eventually be freed from the control of terrorists,” he said.