TEHRAN (Reuters) - U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan said Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on Sunday reaffirmed support for a U.N. resolution on Lebanon and his determination to negotiate an end to Tehran's nuclear standoff with the West.
Annan has been touring the region seeking to shore up the ceasefire that halted a 34-day war in Lebanon between Israel and Iranian-backed Hezbollah guerrillas.
U.N. Resolution 1701 drew up the terms for the ceasefire, including expanding an existing U.N. peacekeeping force in Lebanon and calling for an arms embargo on Hizbollah.
After meeting Ahmadinejad, Annan said the Iranian president "reaffirmed his country's support for the implementation of Resolution 1701 and agrees with me that we should do everything to strengthen the territorial integrity of Lebanon."
Annan's visit also came just days after Tehran failed to meet a U.N. Security Council deadline to halt sensitive nuclear work which the United States says is aimed at producing a nuclear weapon but Tehran says is to meet energy needs.
"On the nuclear issue, the president reaffirmed to me Iran's preparedness and determination to negotiate and find a solution to the crisis," Annan told a news conference in Tehran.
U.N. officials said Annan had also requested to meet Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who is the highest authority under the Islamic Republic's system of clerical rule. Khamenei has also said Iran would press ahead with its atomic plans.
U.N. officials said early on Sunday that no meeting with Khamenei had been scheduled so Annan was expected to leave Iran later on Sunday without seeing him.
ITALIAN TROOPS ARRIVE IN LEBANON
Iran funded and armed Hizbollah in the 1980s although it now says its support is primarily moral and political. But Iran is still widely believed to be the main arms supplier for the Lebanese militia.
More than 500 Italian troops had landed in south Lebanon by mid-morning on Sunday from a force of 800 that had arrived off Lebanon to help keep the peace. Heavy equipment would be flown in later on Sunday, a U.N. spokesman said.
Italy has pledged 3,000 troops to a U.N. plan to increase the existing 2,000 peacekeepers in Lebanon to 15,000 to help enforce the truce. Italy's contingent will be the biggest in the force, known as UNIFIL II.
The U.N. chief held talks on Saturday about the Lebanon truce and the nuclear standoff with senior Iranian officials, including Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki.
U.N. spokesman Ahmad Fawzi told Reuters after the talks Annan raised the arms embargo issue with Mottaki during his talks but did not give further details.
Ahmadinejad had told Annan in telephone talks prior to the visit that Iran had reservations about some articles of the resolution but had also said Iran would cooperate in its implementation, Fawzi said. He did not give details.
At the news conference on Sunday, Mottaki said Iranian officials meeting with Annan criticized Israel for its "invasion of Lebanon" but was ready to work toward peace.
"We expressed the readiness of the Islamic Republic of Iran to cooperate with the United Nations in resuming peace in Lebanon and on its borders," Mottaki said.