BEIRUT: Hezbollah chief Sayyed Hasan Nasrallah, in a rare interview Tuesday, told WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange his group has been in contact with the Syrian opposition, which he said turned down offers to hold dialogue with President Bashar Assad.
“This is the first time I say this – We contacted […] the opposition to encourage them and to facilitate the process of dialogue with the [Syrian] regime. But they rejected dialogue,” Nasrallah, whose whereabouts are unknown, told Assange over a live TV feed.
“Right from the beginning we have had a regime that is willing to enact reforms and is prepared for dialogue. On the other side you have an opposition which is not prepared for dialogue and is not prepared to accept reforms. All it wants is to bring down the regime. This is a problem,” he added.
Nasrallah was the first of several planned guests in the debut of Assange’s “The World Tomorrow” on Russia Today.
The Australian founder of the whistle-blowing website that has leaked hundreds of thousands of classified documents and communiqués remains under strict bail conditions at an undisclosed location in the U.K.
During the interview, which lasted 30 minutes, Nasrallah reiterated Damascus’ view that armed groups had killed “very many civilians.”
The U.N. estimates forces loyal to Assad have killed more than 9,000 people in the uprising which began in March 2011. Syrian authorities say foreign-backed “armed gangs” have killed over 2,600 soldiers and members of the police force.
The Hezbollah secretary-general also said the opposition was receiving arms and financing from foreign countries, including Arab states, and said a recent video posting by the head of Al-Qaeda, Ayman Al-Zawahiri, also indicated that the militant group was operating in Syria.
Asked why the resistance group had backed a number of uprisings in the Arab world but not Syria, Nasrallah said despite Hezbollah’s policy of non-interference in Arab affairs the extent of developments in several countries meant that “no party can just not take a position on them.”
“In Syria, everybody knows that the regime of President Bashar Assad has supported the resistance in Lebanon and Palestine and it has not backed down in the face of Israeli and American pressure so it is a regime which served the Palestinian cause very well,” Nasrallah added.
The Hezbollah chief reiterated his group’s position that dialogue and reforms were need to resolve the 13-month long crisis in Syria, warning that the alternative to this could push Lebanon’s neighbor toward a civil war, “which is exactly what American and Israel want.”
On whether Hezbollah, if asked, would play a role in mediating between the Syrian government and the opposition, Nasrallah said: “When we say we support a political solution then most certainly we will be willing to exert any effort or contribution to achieve that sort of political solution.”
“Any group that wants dialogue with the regime and wants us as go-betweens then we will be more than happy to mediate, but we are asking others to make efforts to create a political solution,” he added.
Asked if Hezbollah would disarm once it achieved what it regarded as a victory in the Arab-Israeli conflict, Nasrallah described Israel as an illegal state that had usurped lands of others and had committed “massacres against the Palestinians who were expelled [from their lands.]”
“The progress of time does not negate justice. If it was your house and I occupied it by force, then it doesn’t become mine in 50 or 100 years just because I am stronger than you and I have been able to occupy your house,” he told Assange.
“That doesn’t legalize my ownership of your house. At least this is our ideological and legal point of view,” he added.
Nasrallah said only a one-state solution could resolve the conflict.
“We believe Palestine belongs to the Palestinian people but if we wanted to combine ideology and law as well as political realities … we should say that the only solution is that we don’t want to kill anyone, we don’t want to treat anyone unjustly, we want justice to be restored and the only solution is the establishment of one state on the land of Palestine in which the Muslims, Jews and Christians can live in peace in a democratic state. Any other solution would simply not be viable,” he said.
Nasrallah also denied that his group fired into Israeli civilian areas, citing an indirect agreement between Hezbollah and the Jewish state not to fire on each other’s civilian populations.
“After 10 of years of resistance we started reacting only, purely, strictly to stop Israeli shelling on our civilians so that in 1993 there was an indirect understanding between the resistance and Israel, and that understanding was reaffirmed in 1996, and that understanding makes clear that both sides avoid shelling civilians,” he said.
“We always used to say that if you don’t shell our villages and our towns then we don’t have anything to do with your villages and towns,” he added.