Iran president lauds Hizbollah

Reuters: Iran's president praised on Tuesday Hizbollah's resistance to Israel during a month-long conflict in Lebanon and said the United States and Britain should pay compensation for war damage. By Parisa Hafezi

TEHRAN (Reuters) - Iran's president praised on Tuesday Hizbollah's resistance to Israel during a month-long conflict in Lebanon and said the United States and Britain should pay compensation for war damage.

President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was speaking after U.S. President George Bush told Iran on Monday, when a fragile truce went into effect in Lebanon, to stop supporting armed groups trying to derail democracies in Iraq and Lebanon.

Iranian state media reveled on Tuesday in what officials called a "glorious victory" by the Iranian- and Syrian-backed Hizbollah.

"This war showed that any nation that relies on God and fights for its rights will surely be victorious," Ahmadinejad told a crowd in the northwestern city of Ardebil.

"Britain and America are the main associates of the Zionist regime (Israel) in its offensive to Lebanon and should compensate Lebanon for the damage," he said in the speech, broadcast live on state television.

"Those governments should answer for their crimes in Lebanon."

State TV broadcast pictures from several Iranian cities showing groups of a few dozen people chanting and waving the Lebanese group Hizbollah's flag to celebrate.

"Long live Hizbollah" and "God is greatest" shouted the crowds. Women were pictured handing out sweets to passers-by, while cars blew their horns.

MISSILES

An influential senior cleric said on Tuesday Iran would hit Tel Aviv with its medium-range missiles if attacked.

"If they (U.S. and Israel) militarily attack Iran ... They should be afraid of the day when our missiles with 2,000 km range will hit Tel Aviv," Ahmad Khatami told state television.

Arms experts say Iran's Shahab-3 missiles are capable of hitting Israel.

Although Iran funded and armed Hizbollah in the 1980s, it has more recently insisted that its support is moral and political. But Israel and other sources say the Lebanese group used Iranian arms in the conflict.

During the fighting, posters of Hizbollah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah were put up along major roads in the capital.

Ahmadinejad, who has called for Israel to be "wiped off the map", has said Iran was ready to help reconstruction in Lebanon. Iran's Islamic government has refused to recognize Israel.

Other officials have also hailed Hizbollah.

"Since Hizbollah's glorious victory in its war against the Zionist regime, resistance has become a new force in the Islamic world," parliament speaker Gholamali Haddadadel was quoted as saying by the official IRNA news agency.

Clad in a black-and-white checked keffiyeh, a traditional Arab headscarf, reveller Parviz Mahmoudi told Iran's state television that Israeli officials should be brought to justice for what he described as crimes committed in Lebanon.

"They are criminals. They killed hundreds of innocent people. They deserve the harshest punishment," he said.