Lebanon News

Nasrallah urges captors of Lebanese pilgrims to set them free

This TV frame grab shows Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hasan Nasrallah. (The Daily Star/TV grab)

BEIRUT: Hezbollah chief Sayyed Hasan Nasrallah urged the captors of Lebanese hostages Friday to separate the humanitarian aspect of the case from political disagreements they may have with him or Hezbollah.

Separately, he also called for the creation of a national conference on state-building.

“Having a problem with Hezbollah or the Amal Movement over political views of what is happening in Syria is one thing, but taking innocent people hostage is a great injustice,” Nasrallah said, addressing the captors of 11 Lebanese pilgrims kidnapped in Syria last week.

Nasrallah's comments came during a speech at Beirut's UNESCO Palace commemorating the twenty-third anniversary of the death of Iranian leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini. He spoke live via a televised screen.

“If you have a problem with me, then there are several means and ways to resolve this problem,” he added.

Shiite pilgrims on their way back to Lebanon following a pilgrimage to Iran were kidnapped last month in the northern Syrian province of Aleppo. The women and elderly men among the pilgrims were set free and returned to Lebanon shortly after the initial abduction. But eleven men remain in captivity.

An unknown Syrian rebel group claimed the abduction of the Lebanese, and said that releasing them was contingent on Nasrallah apologizing for his support of the Syrian regime.

During his speech Friday, Nasrallah also reiterated his support for Syria and said that dialogue and reform were the only means to resolve the 15-month old crisis in Lebanon’s neighbor.

The Hezbollah leader, who praised the relatives of the abductees for their patience and self-restraint, also said it was the responsibility of the state to resolve the crisis.

Separately, Nasrallah called for the establishment of an elected national body tasked with studying ways to build a “true state” capable of providing its citizens with security and economic stability.

“I call for convening a national conference in Lebanon ... our people and country deserve for us to sit together instead of firing at one another,” Nasrallah added.

He asked President Michel Sleiman, who will be chairing National Dialogue sessions starting June 11, to examine the convening of such a conference.

The Hezbollah chief also said that the state was the only guarantor of security and civil peace, but that the current Lebanese state is incapable of such a task, which forces many people to bear arms and defend themselves.

He added that had a capable, responsible state existed in Lebanon, Hezbollah would not have established the tripartite formula of the “people, the army, and the resistance,” as the country’s only defense strategy.

“No party or organization, regardless of its strength, can protect an entire society and people,” Nasrallah said.





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