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A divided Lebanon waits for Iran's Mahmoud Ahmadinejad

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Other Lebanese, however, express misgivings about the imminent arrival of the outspoken Iranian president, fearing his stage-hogging antics will provoke friction along the perennially tense Lebanon-Israel border and potentially aggravate already strained ties between Lebanon’s Shias and Sunnis. On Tuesday, an open letter signed by 250 politicians, civil society activists, journalists, doctors, and teachers called on Ahmadinejad to stop meddling in Lebanese affairs and end its military and financial backing for Hezbollah.

Front line?

“One group in Lebanon draws its power from you… and has wielded it over another group and the state,” the letter said. "Your talk of ‘changing the face of the region starting with Lebanon’ … and ‘wiping Israel off the map through the force of the Islamic Resistance in Lebanon'… gives the impression that your visit is that of a high commander to his front line,” the letter added.

Hezbollah has requested its supporters turn out en masse to greet Ahmadinejad when he arrives Wednesday on what will be his first visit to Lebanon since taking office in 2005. Iranian and Lebanese flags line the highway linking Beirut’s city center to the airport alongside portraits of a smiling Ahmadinejad inscribed with “welcome” in Arabic and Farsi.

Hezbollah follows Iran’s religious system and is the recipient of large quantities of financial and military aid from the Islamic Republic.

Ahmadinejad’s visit will be a welcome morale booster for Hezbollah at a time of rising tensions in Lebanon over an investigation into the assassination of Rafik Hariri, a former Lebanese prime minister who died in a truck bombing in February 2005.

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