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Iranian President to Begin Controversial Trip to Lebanon

A worker fixes a huge poster of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad during preparations for his visit to the southern village of Bint Jbeil, Lebanon, 12 Oct 2010

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad arrives in Lebanon Wednesday for a controversial two-day visit that includes talks with Lebanese President Michel Suleiman, Prime Minister Saad Hariri and leaders of the Shi'ite militant group Hezbollah.

A coalition of Lebanese politicians and civil society figures released an open letter to the Iranian president Tuesday, accusing him of interfering in the country's affairs. The letter, signed by more than 200 people, including former members of parliament close to the Western-backed parliamentary majority, criticized Mr. Ahmadinejad over Iran's support for Hezbollah.

Sheik Hassan Nasrallah's pro-Iranian Hezbollah militia is engaged in a bitter political feud over its possible role in the assassination of former Lebanese prime minister Rafik Hariri, the father of the current prime minister. Nasrallah urged Lebanese to thank Mr. Ahmadinejad for Iran's help in rebuilding the country after a 2006 war with Israel.

The Iranian president's visit will include a tour of villages near the border of Lebanon and Israel.

On Monday, Lebanese media reported that a militant Sunni group calling itself the Abdullah Azzam Brigades warned it would kill Mr. Ahmadinejad if he enters Lebanon. The group said in an Internet message that "the ground of Lebanon will tremble if Mr. Ahmadinejad sets foot in the country."

Meanwhile, Lebanese officials say they have arrested nine more alleged spies for Israel. Intelligence authorities say the nine arrests were made over the past couple of months and are linked to a suspected Israeli network of spies within Lebanon's borders. Lebanon has accused more than 100 people of espionage since last year, and several have been sentenced to death.

Some information for this report was provided by AP and AFP..