Turkish PM affirms in Beirut that Turkey won’t be silent over any fresh Israeli aggression on Lebanon

Erdogan rejects doubts cast over Special Tribunal for Lebanon, attempts to tamper with security

Hariri concludes visit to Tehran

Higher committee former under co-chairmanship of Hariri, Iranian vice president, several agreements signed

Lebanon's Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri said he opposed international pressure on Iran, after the New York Times quoted a leaked cable suggesting he would back military strikes to curb Tehran's nuclear work.

Speaking at the end of a three-day visit to Iran, Hariri did not mention the newspaper's report of a 2006 U.S. diplomatic message, included in the WikiLeaks documents released last week.

"`Iraq was unnecessary,' claimed Saad. `Iran is necessary.'", the New York Times quoted the secret cable as saying, apparently comparing the cases for military action against the two countries.

Hariri, who at the time was Lebanon's parliamentary majority leader, reportedly told U.S. officials that they "must be willing to go all the way if need be" to stop Iran getting a bomb if diplomatic efforts fail.

Washington and Israel do not rule out a military strike on Iran to stop it getting nuclear weapons, something Tehran says it is not seeking.

At a news conference, Hariri said: "Lebanon ... will never, ever consider itself as part of an international system which aims at pressurizing Iran."

"We believe that Iran reserves the right to enjoy peaceful nuclear technology. We invite the international community, based on this principle, to enter into talks with Iran," he added.

Iran has indicated its willingness to resume stalled talks with the United States, Russia, China, Britain, France and Germany, but the venue and agenda of the talks have yet to be agreed.

Hariri's visit to Iran, a strong supporter of Lebanese Shiite group Hezbollah, was partly to seek help to prevent political tensions in Lebanon turning violent if a U.N.-backed tribunal indicts Hezbollah members for killing his father.

"There is no doubt that the government of Iran is a friendly and brotherly government for Lebanon and it only wants Lebanon's good," Hariri said.

At a meeting with Hariri, Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said Iran "supports Lebanese unity and independence" but that some people were trying to create instability.

"Lebanon is a multi-religious country in which the followers of different faiths and sects have lived for a long time in peace and sympathy beside each other, but some are looking to create instability," he said, according to state radio.

Hezbollah says the investigation into Rafik al-Hariri's death is an Israeli project targeting the group, but Hariri has so far resisted its calls to repudiate the tribunal.

Khamenei encouraged the Lebanese prime minister to strengthen his relationship with Hezbollah chief Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah, state radio reported.

Hariri has hailed Iran's assistance to Lebanon, calling for the expansion of defense cooperation between Tehran and Beirut.

"The Islamic Republic of Iran has done great things for Lebanon in difficult situations," Hariri said in a meeting with Iran's Defense Minister Brigadier General Ahmad Vahidi.

"The defense ministries of Iran and Lebanon should pave the way for the expansion of defense relations between the two countries through cooperation," ISNA quoted Hariri as saying.

In his first visit to Tehran as the Lebanese prime minister, Hariri is scheduled to hold talks with senior Iranian officials, including President Mahmud Ahmadinejad on bilateral and regional issues.

The Lebanese premier stressed the importance of unity among Arab countries and Iran, saying that "unity is the greatest factor in repelling dangers that threaten the region."

"The Lebanese government will try to strengthen Lebanon's army with all its might," he added.

General Vahidi described the Lebanese army and the resistance movement of Hezbollah as two powerful arms for defending the country' territorial integrity and said, "Iran has always announced that it will stand beside the Lebanese army and the resistance, and is ready to meet Lebanon's defense needs."

"Iran's defense equipments and capabilities belong to the Muslim nation and are at the service of stable security in the region," Vahidi concluded.

Iran and Lebanon signed nine memoranda of understanding (MoUs) on expansion of mutual cooperation between the two countries as Lebanese Premier Saad Hariri wrapped up his visit to the Islamic Republic, the official IRNA news agency reported.

The agreements included the expansion of mutual cooperation, campaign against illiteracy, addiction and drug trafficking, cultural heritage, rehabilitation of handicaps, protecting elderly males and females, supporting unprotected children and women affairs as well as family planning, said the report.

According to IRNA, Iran and Lebanon also signed a 13-clause joint statement on adopting common stands in dealing with regional and international developments and underlined the need to uphold the current level of mutual business cooperation.

Hariri said Lebanon will not join any scheme against Iran's nuclear program, the local satellite Press TV reported.

"Lebanon has always opposed exerting pressure and limitations on Iran and condemns such pressure and sanctions against Iran," he was quoted as saying.

"We believe Iran reserves the right to possess peaceful nuclear technology," Hariri made the remarks in a joint press conference with Iran's First Vice President Mohammad Reza Rahimi.

Hariri said that his meetings with Iranian officials were positive and in line with promoting cooperation in fields of gas and oil, describing Iran as a friend and brother who is taking care of Lebanon's welfare.

Iranian Defense Minister Ahmad Vahidi said Iran is ready to cooperate with the Lebanese army. "We also announce today that we are by the side of Lebanese army and are ready to cooperate (with the Lebanese army )."

For his part, Hariri appreciated Iran's supports for Lebanon, saying Iran has done a lot for Lebanon's rebuilding, the state IRIB TV reported.

Hariri said his visit would pave the way for the expansion of defense ties between Iran and Lebanon, the report said.

Hariri, heading a high ranking delegation, arrived in Tehran last week to hold talks with senior Iranian officials to exchange views on regional developments and implement the agreements signed between the two countries during Ahmadinejad's visit to Lebanon in October.

"The cooperation of Arab governments with Iran is necessary to counter existing dangers," Hariri said in a statement issued before his departure for Tehran in the Lebanese capital, Beirut, last week, adding that "Iran is concerned by all efforts to provide elements of stability in all countries of the region, including Lebanon," Press TV reported.

On the other hand, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said in Beirut last week that Turkey will not remain silent if Israel attacks Lebanon or Gaza, as ties between the longtime allies remained at an all-time low.

"Does (Israel) think it can enter Lebanon with the most modern aircraft and tanks to kill women and children, and destroy schools and hospitals, and then expect us to remain silent?" Erdogan said at a conference organized by the Union of Arab Banks.

"Does it think it can use the most modern weapons, phosphorus munitions and cluster bombs to kill children in Gaza and then expect us to remain silent?

"We will not be silent and we will support justice by all means available to us."

Turkey was once Israel's closest military and diplomatic ally in the Middle East but ties began to deteriorate when Ankara criticized Israel's December 2008 to January 2009 offensive against Gaza.

Relations then nosedived on May 31, 2010 when Israeli naval commandos stormed a Turkish-registered protest ship, the Mavi Marmara, part of a flotilla attempting to break the Israeli blockade of the Palestinian territory.

Nine Turkish activists were killed in the operation.

Erdogan has said his country will not begin to restore relations with Israel until it apologizes for its "savage attack" on the vessel.

Thursday was the final day of the Turkish premier's two-day visit to Lebanon, during which he inaugurated a burns treatment centre in Sidon, a major southern coastal city.

South Lebanon was badly hit during the Hezbollah militia's deadly 2006 war with Israel.

Hariri and Erdogan signed a free trade zone agreement between Lebanon and Turkey, culminating six years of serious negotiations.

“This agreement is a new beginning for the relations between Lebanon and Turkey and its conclusion reflects our continuous commitment to develop the strong economic and commercial relations between us,” Hariri said in a speech delivered on the occasion.

Hariri said that the Lebanese government is committed to trade liberalization and has already signed several bilateral and multilateral trade agreements for this purpose. “Our conviction is that these agreements give the Lebanese consumer wider choices with better prices, but most importantly, they open the door for Lebanese exports to enter new and giant markets such as the Turkish market,” he said.

Hariri said that the lifting of obstacles to the trade of goods between Lebanon and Turkey would not be immediate or total.

“We agreed to limit the freedom of trade in the agricultural sector to 20 products due to the sensitivity of the agricultural sector in our country,” he said. “We divided the industrial products into three groups: the first group will be liberated from custom tariffs as soon as the Lebanese Parliament endorses the agreement. The second group will be gradually liberated from tariffs over a period of five years. As for the third and last group, we will start negotiating ways of liberating it from tariffs five years from now.”

He added that this schedule provides the necessary time for Lebanese industrialists to adjust to the freedom of movement of goods.

Hariri thanked Erdogan for contributing to the construction of the newly opened Turkish hospital in Sidon.

For his part, Erdogan pledged to continue his country’s contributions toward rebuilding Lebanon, whether in the field of health or infrastructure.

He added that the free trade zone would be a turning point and would accelerate bilateral economic relations.