BEIRUT (Dispatches) -- Lebanon’s Prime Minister Hassan Diab on Monday met Iran’s parliament speaker, the first senior foreign official to visit since Diab’s government took office.
Diab’s cabinet took office last month after efforts failed to strike a deal with Saad al-Hariri, a traditional Western ally.
Larijani also met said the Lebanese president whose office quoted the Iranian speaker as saying that Tehran stood ready to help Lebanon’s crisis-hit economy.
"We wish the new government success and we are ready to help improve the economic situation,” Lebanese President Michel Aoun’s office quoted Larijani as saying.
Banks are curbing access to cash, the Lebanese pound has slumped, inflation has spiked and firms are shedding jobs. Foreign donors say they will only help once Lebanon enacts long-delayed reforms.
An Arab diplomat in the Persian Gulf said Qatar had invited Diab to visit so far, while Saudi Arabia and its allies were apparently cold-shouldering the new Lebanese premier.
Aoun’s office said he received an invitation to Tehran during his meeting with Larijani on Monday. Larijani said in a televised conference that his country stood ready to help Lebanon.
Hezbollah Secretary General Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah said in a speech on Sunday that the cabinet was not "Hezbollah’s government” and that opponents who described it that way were damaging Lebanon’s ties to foreign states and making it harder to combat the crisis.
A team of IMF experts will begin consultations with Lebanon’s government in Beirut on Thursday, a source familiar with the matter said.
The heavily indebted state formally requested the Fund’s technical help last week.
On the parallel market - now the main source of hard currency - the price of U.S. dollars hovered around 2,400 Lebanese pounds on Monday, 60% beyond the official peg of 1,507.5 in place since 1997.