TEHRAN: A top Iranian cleric yesterday slammed US president-elect Barack Obama's criticism of Hizbollah and defended the Islamic republic's support of the Lebanese Shi'ite group.
"We are announcing it frankly, that we will defend the Lebanese Hizbollah resistance and its brave leader Hassan Nasrallah with pride," the prayers leader at Tehran University, Ahmad Khatami, said.
"They are not terrorists since they are defending their honour and independence," he said.
"If Obama wants to decrease hatred, he has to stop making worthless comments. Most probably the Zionists have put down a banana skin for him," he said.
In an interview broadcast last week, Obama said he would make clear to Tehran that its nuclear programme was "unacceptable," along with support of Hizbollah and the Palestinian group Hamas, and its "threats against Israel."
Shi'ite majority Iran is a staunch supporter of Hizbollah and maintains that it provides them with moral support and not arms as alleged by two of its arch-foes, Washington and Israel.
After the summer 2006 war between Israel and Hizbollah, Iran sent money and technical expertise for reconstruction and to compensate victims. Israel says the group is now three times stronger than during the war.
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