BEIRUT: Hezbollah’s Chief Sayyed Hasan Nasrallah dismissed Friday in a rare public appearance in Beirut claims of a “Shiite expansion” in the region as a ploy to divert attention from Israel’s “Zionist project,” warning that the idea was serving to fuel domestic political disputes.
Nasrallah, who spoke at the Sayyed al-Shuadaa Complex in Beirut’s southern suburb to commemorate Quds Day, also held responsible parties financing Takfiri groups fighting in different countries for the violence that came in their wake.
"There are those in the Arab world backed by the U.S. who oppose prioritizing the demise of Israel and push nations toward another priority by inventing reasons for another war against what they call the Shiite expansion,” said Nasrallah.
“They [Gulf countries] spend millions of their money and launch television channels to promote this [so-called] Shiite expansion,” he added.
“They invented a new enemy and convinced Arab countries that the Shiite expansion is more dangerous than Israel and its Zionist project in the region,” Nasrallah, who described Israel as “cancerous gland” that needed to be “excised,” said.
The Hezbollah leader, who was greeted with ecstatic cheers from the audience in the southern suburb of Beirut, spoke on a podium for the annual speech. Nasrallah has rarely attended public events since the July-August 2006 war between Lebanon and Israel, making his speeches via televised broadcasts instead. His last public appearance was in September 2012.
The priority for the region, Nasrallah said, should be directed toward the struggle against Israel which is occupying Palestinian and Arab territories, adding that the demise of the Jewish State was in the interest of Lebanon and the whole region.
He also said diverse societies in the region were facing increasing sectarian divisions that only served to splinter the Middle East.
“What is worse is that some have given local political disputes a sectarian dimension ... particularly in countries that enjoy diversity such as in Lebanon, Syria, Iraq and Bahrain,” he said.
“Isn’t it time for the Arab nations to recognize that there is someone attempting to destroy their countries, armies, heritage and people?” Nasrallah asked, saying it was time for Arab states to name and shame countries backing such a “spiteful plan.”
He also slammed countries that support and finance radical groups.
“Everyone who supports Takfiri groups militarily, financially, through the media and incites them to fight in battle fields is responsible for the destruction and bloodshed and is doing Israel a big favor,” he said.
Nasrallah has justified his party’s involvement in Syria by arguing Takfiri groups hold a major sway in the ranks of rebels seeking the ouster of President Bashar Assad and represent a threat to Lebanon.
He reiterated that Hezbollah had launched a pre-emptive war in Syria in order to protect the resistance group and prevent Takfiris from posing a threat to Lebanon.
Nasrallah, who is backed by Iran, also said attacks against Shiites in various countries aimed at removing the Islamic Republic from the regional equation in terms of the conflict with Israel.
Addressing the U.S., Israel and Britain, Nasrallah said: “As Shiites of Ali Bin Abi Taleb, we will never abandon Palestine, its people or its sanctities.”
He also urged Arab countries to launch internal political dialogue in order to halt “the bloodshed” in the region and revitalize support to the Palestinian cause.
“In Hezbollah, we are searching for commonalities [with other parties] in Lebanon and abroad and we delay and manage disputes, some of which go beyond harming the economy and security to the point of destruction,” he said.
Nasrallah also called on Muslims and Arabs to unify efforts and defeat Israeli designs in the region.
“Hezbollah affirms our commitment to these principles and priorities that sometimes creates feuds for us,” he said.
“We will remain committed to the Palestinian cause and its people and we are keen on good relations with all Palestinian factions, despite disputes we may have over events in Syria and sometimes Palestine,” Nasrallah added.
In Lebanon, Nasrallah said his group would face alongside the Army any aggression against the country.
“In Hezbollah, the resistance remains alert and ready to protect Lebanon and our people and face the enemy’s dangers alongside the Lebanese Army,” he said.