TEHRAN (AFP) – Iranian supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei praised the Lebanese Shiite Muslim group Hezbollah for its military and political performance as the militant faction’s chief held talks in Tehran. “Hezbollah has shown it is skillful and wise in politics as it is powerful and displays initiative in the field of Jihad and resistance,” Khamenei told Hezbollah chief Hasan Nasrallah, the student agency ISNA reported.Khamenei said Hezbollah, formed in 1982 by the Iranian Revolutionary Guards after the Israeli invasion of Lebanon, was a source of pride for the Islamic world.”Today, the United States has really become weak in the region,” Khamenei said. “This is proved by its failure in Iraq and defeat of its plans in Lebanon and Iran.”Touching on Mahmood Ahmadinejad’s upset victory in Iran’s June presidential election, Khamenei said the United States had been “shocked and stunned” by the result. “They were forced to retreat a long way.”Hezbollah was among the first to hail Ahmadinejad’s win, describing it as a slap in the face for the United States.

Nasrallah Monday met outgoing reformist President Mohammad Khatami, his hardline successor Mahmood Ahmadinejad and his defeated centrist election opponent Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani.

Backed by Iran and Syria in its long campaign of resistance to Israel’s 22-year occupation of south Lebanon, Hezbollah faces a UN Security Council demand for the disarmament of its military wing which still exclusively patrols the formerly Israeli-occupied south.