BEIRUT: Hezbollah chief Sayyed Hasan Nasrallah said following a rare public appearance Tuesday that his group was continuing to arm itself and would stand by President Bashar Assad.
“Our forces have increased and so have our arms day after day,” Nasrallah said in a video link on the occasion of Ashura, one of the holiest days of the Muslim Shiite calendar.
"This resistance and its weapons will continue to exist and your conspiracies as well as your psychological, political and intelligence wars will not destroy us,” Nasrallah told crowds at a packed stadium in the southern suburbs of Beirut less than half an hour after making a rare public appearance at the venue.
Thousands of men dressed in black applauded as Nasrallah yelled: “The resistance in Lebanon, with its weapons and mujahedeen, God willing, will continue to exist. We will hold onto our arms ... our weapons do not rust. They are being upgraded."
During his brief public appearance, Nasrallah, speaking from an open-air podium, told the cheering crowd: “I wanted to be with you for a few minutes ... to renew our pledge with al-Hussein who stood at this day alone in the face of 30,000 individuals.”
Nasrallah said his public appearance was a message to those who believe they can intimidate Hezbollah.
“We tell all those who bet on scaring us or threatening us that we are the companions of Imam Hussein, who says he will never be humiliated,” he said before he was whisked out of al-Rai Stadium in the southern suburb neighborhood of Sfeir.
The crowd cried "death to America" and "death to Israel" in response.
Joking to his followers, Nasrallah told tens of thousands of supporters he will reappear via video link for a wide-ranging speech. "See you in few minutes ... don't go away," he said.
During his televised speech, Nasrallah touched on both local and regional matters.
On the “Arab Spring,” Nasrallah reiterated accusations that the U.S. was steering the uprisings in the Arab world and urged people to be aware of “this conspiracy.”
“We must alert, remind and warn everybody that the real threat to this nation and all its peoples is the U.S.-Israeli project,” Nasrallah said via a video link.
He said the U.S. administration had revived its “new Middle East project” after attempts by Washington were thwarted by resistance operations in the region and by rejectionist countries with Iran and Syria at the forefront.
The U.S. “now woke up to reactivate the new Middle East project by igniting sectarian strife.”
A good section of Nasrallah's speech was devoted to Syria, saying that while he supported reforms he would “stand by a regime that has stood by the resistance for a long time.”
Nasrallah said the United States aimed to destroy Syria.
“There are some who don’t want civil peace or stability and want to destroy Syria. There are some who want to make up for their defeat in Iraq and their inevitable loss in any change in the situation in Syria for the benefit of Israel,” Nasrallah told the packed stadium.
He also slammed the Syrian National Council, the main anti-Assad opposition group, for seeking to "destroy” Syria while moving closer to the U.S. and Israel.
"The so-called Syrian National Council, formed in Istanbul, has a leader, a university professor by the name of Burhan Ghalioun who said a few days ago that he wants to cut ties with Iran, Hezbollah and Hamas if they [Syrian opposition] were able to change the regime and take over power in Syria ... they are trying to present their credentials to the Americans and the Israelis," Nasrallah said.
Last week the Wall Street Journal published an interview with Ghalioun in which he said “Our relations with Iran will be revisited as [will those of] any of the countries in the region, based on the exchange of economic and diplomatic interests, in the context of improving stability in the region and not that of a special relationship. There will be no special relationship with Iran.”
He said breaking the exceptional relationship with Iran after the fall of the Syrian regime would change its relationship with Hezbollah.
On local matters, Nasrallah touched on the issue of “false witnesses” in the case of the assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri.
Nasrallah said the issue had caused tensions in ties between Lebanon and Syria and called on the government to address the divisive topic.
“There is a need to resolve the issue of ‘false witnesses’ and that of the four officers who were jailed,” Nasrallah said, referring to the four generals who were held without charge for nearly four years before the Special Tribunal for Lebanon probing Hariri’s assassination ordered their release.