Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad waves to the crowds from the sunroof of his SUV upon his arrival in Beirut, Lebanon, Wednesday, Oct. 13, 2010.
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was greeted by huge crowds waving flags, cheering, and throwing rice and rose petals at his motorcade as he drove from the airport to city. NPR's Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson says opponents to his visit wrote an open letter to Ahmadinejad criticizing him for only supporting one party in Lebanon, Hezbollah, a powerful Shi'ite social, political, and military movement. They wrote that the Iranian president was trying to transform Lebanon into "an Iranian base on the Mediterranean".
Iran spent millions of dollars on reconstruction in Lebanon after the 2006 Hezbollah-Israel conflict. Tomorrow Ahmadinejad is scheduled to visit towns in the south of the country which were largely destroyed during the war and rebuilt with Iranian money.
The visit also comes as a UN tribunal is expected to release indictments of several people believed to be responsible for the 2005 assassination of Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Harriri. Some of those indictments are expected to name members of Hezbollah. Harriri's son, Saad, the current Prime Minister is under pressure from Hezbollah to condemn the tribunal.