Iran's speaker visits Qana cemetery, urges unity against Israel, United States

The speaker of Iran's parliament visited the graves of more than 100 people killed by Israeli artillery shells as he finished Saturday a trip to reaffirm Iranian support for Lebanon and its Hezbollah militant group.

Accompanied by Iranian legislators, Speaker Gholam Ali Haddad Adel went to Qana, 11 kilometers (7 miles) north of the Israeli border, where a bombardment killed Lebanese men, women and children taking refuge in a U.N. base during an Israeli offensive against Hezbollah rocket attacks in 1996. A U.N. report found the shelling was "unlikely" to have been an accident, as Israel claimed.

Addressing a crowd of Hezbollah supporters in Qana, Haddad Adel told them in Arabic: "You are not alone because the Iranian nation with its 70 million people is with you."

Haddad Adel called for unity against what he described as "the ambitions of America and Israel."

Haddad Adel arrived in Lebanon on Thursday as the guest of his Lebanese counterpart, Speaker Nabih Berri. He met Lebanon's president, prime minister and the leader of Hezbollah, Sheik Hassan Nasrallah. He repeatedly expressed support for Lebanon and Hezbollah, a Shiite Muslim group that has long enjoyed Iranian patronage.

On Saturday, Haddad Adel also visited a former detention center used by Israel's Lebanese allies in the southern village of Khiam, a few kilometers north of Israel. Israel occupied parts of southern Lebanon for 18 years until withdrawing its forces in 2000. Hezbollah's campaign against the Israeli occupation is widely credited with forcing the withdrawal.

Later Saturday, Haddad Adel went to Damascus where he said he would discuss with Syrian officials "ways of confronting pressure against Iran and Syria," the official Syrian Arab News Agency reported.

Both Iran and Syria are under U.S. sanctions. The United States accuses them of supporting terrorist groups. It accuses Iran of seeking to build nuclear bombs and Syria of allowing insurgents to cross into Iraq. Iran and Syria deny the charges, AP reported.

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