A top Hezbollah official has said that United Nations leader Ban Ki-moon is not welcome in Lebanon, days ahead of a trip by the UN chief, but Ban's spokesman shrugged off the implicit threat.
"Ban Ki-moon is not welcome in Beirut, nor is the imposter Terje Roed-Larsen or the messenger of evil and conspiracies Jeffrey Feltman," Sheikh Mohammed Yazbeck, who heads the party's religious council, was quoted as saying over the weekend by local media.
Ban arrives in Lebanon on Friday to meet with officials and the commander of the UN peacekeeping force deployed in the south of the country.
His third visit to Lebanon comes amid concern over the safety of the UN Interim Force in Lebanon, which has been the target of several attacks in recent months.
The UN leader played down the Hezbollah comments however.
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"The secretary general is of the view, as are many people around the world, that the Lebanese are among the most hospitable people you will find anywhere. He sees no reason for that to be any different on this particular trip," UN spokesman Martin Nesirky told reporters at UN headquarters in New York.
Larsen is the UN special coordinator for the implementation of resolution 1559, which calls for the disarmament of all groups other than the national Lebanese army.
Feltman is the US assistant secretary of state for near eastern affairs and a former ambassador to Lebanon.
Yazbeck's office on Monday confirmed his statements to AFP. Several Hezbollah officials contacted would not give further comment.
Whilst in Lebanon, Ban will also open a two-day UN conference in Beirut on reform and transition to democracy in the Arab world.