Stunned Lebanese president demands Iran explain Guards' presence
BEIRUT - President Michel Sleiman demanded on Monday that Iran provide an official explanation as to why members of its Revolutionary Guards have been sent to Lebanon.
On Sunday, the Guards commander said members of his elite special operations unit, the Quds Force, were in Syria and Lebanon but only to provide "counsel."
"President Sleiman asked for an official explanation from the relevant Iranian authorities," his office said.
Lebanon is divided into two political camps -- one supported by Syria and Iran, the other backed by the West.
Iran provides political and military support to the powerful Shiite group Hezbollah, which plays a central role in the current Lebanese government, and to its militia.
Hezbollah was created in 1982 by the Iranian Revolutionary Guards during the Israeli invasion.
General Mohammed Ali Jafari, commander of the Guards, said on Sunday that "a number of Quds Force members are present in Syria and Lebanon... We provide (these countries) with counsel and advice, and transfer experience to them."
"But it does not mean that we have a military presence there," he added.
The Quds Force is tasked with carrying out operations outside Iran -- official and clandestine.
It has several thousand members, and it is especially active in the Middle East, according to Western analysts.