Lebanon News

Nasrallah: Cabinet’s fall would rock stability

Hezbollah chief Sayyed Hasan Nasrallah speaks during a televised interview, Monday, Sept. 3, 2012. (The Daily Star/TV grab)

BEIRUT: Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hasan Nasrallah said Monday there is no other choice but keeping the current Cabinet in office in order to maintain stability and avoid a power vacuum. He said the resignation of Prime Minister Najib Mikati’s Cabinet would take Lebanon into the “unknown.”

In an interview with Al-Mayadeen television, the Hezbollah chief threatened Israel that his commandos are not only capable of defending Lebanon against an Israeli invasion but are also capable of going on the offense and entering northern Israel.

Nasrallah denied his group possessed chemical weapons but said its present arsenal was enough to deal a severe blow to the Jewish state.

The head of the Lebanese resistance group also warned that U.S. military bases in the region could be targeted by Iran if Israel launched an attack on nuclear facilities in the Islamic Republic.

“We don’t have chemical weapons and we don’t need to use them ... because [Israel] has factories and locations that are in the reach of our rockets,” he said, adding that it was religiously unacceptable for his group to use chemical weapons.

Several reports emerged over the past year of U.S. and Israeli concerns of Syria’s chemical weapons stockpile falling into Hezbollah’s hands.

Commenting on the situation in Syria, Nasrallah said dialogue between the regime and the opposition was the only possible solution to the crisis.

The Hezbollah chief also welcomed the planned visit of Catholic Pope Benedict XVI to Lebanon later this month and said his party would participate in all phases of his trip, “to show our respect.”

Nasrallah said maintaining the current Cabinet in Lebanon was the only way to avoid a power vacuum.

“It took the current parliamentary majority four to five months to form this Cabinet. If we choose to go for a national unity government, given the current circumstances, it would probably take us one year,” he said, adding that the country cannot afford a yearlong power vacuum.

Nasrallah warned against sectarian strife in Lebanon and called on the concerned parties to keep their political differences away from sectarian discourse.

Addressing the kidnappers of Lebanese Shiite pilgrims in Syria, Nasrallah urged the captors to set the remaining men free, stressing that keeping them in captivity will not affect Hezbollah’s political position on Syria.

“If you are freedom seekers, then these people are innocent and you should set them free,” he said.

Eleven Lebanese Shiite pilgrims were kidnapped in Syria in May, and one was released last month. The kidnappers, a Syrian rebel group, have repeatedly asked Nasrallah to apologize for his positions on the Syrian crisis.

Nasrallah said Hezbollah’s relationship with Syrian President Bashar Assad was based on his support for the resistance against Israel, adding that Assad had repeatedly showed willingness to reform his regime, but the opposition has rejected all calls for dialogue.

Nasrallah also revealed that he had met Assad a week after the start of the uprising and said the Syrian president showed his willingness to make several compromises with the opposition.

Nasrallah, who said in August his group could wreak havoc should Israel launch an assault of Lebanon, reiterated his threat, saying even a first strike that wiped out many of the group’s missile sites would still leave enough rockets to harm hundreds of thousands of Israelis.

“We don’t have a mighty power, but we have a power that is effective. The available power today can represent a powerful deterrent force,” he said.

He also reiterated that Hezbollah’s missiles have advanced targeting and range capabilities. “The rockets of the Islamic resistance can strike at any target in occupied Palestine [Israel] that you can think of,” Nasrallah said.

He said the capabilities of his group should not be undermined and that the resistance remained on alert for any possible confrontation.

“Since 2000 until today, there is a perception that Hezbollah is preoccupied and there are a thousand issues that it has to deal with. However, we have a big team, the resistance’s team, which is not involved in domestic affairs but works day and night on training, arming, planning, and is concerned with keeping itself prepared [for any eventuality],” he said.

Nasrallah refused to say how many missiles and rockets his group has, although in the past he has said they have more than 20,000. Israel estimates the number at several times that.

The Hezbollah chief said a possible Israeli strike on Iran would invite a strong retaliation from the Islamic Republic, but he played down the possibility such strike would take place, adding that Israeli officials were divided on the issue.

“What I heard from Iranian officials ... is that the retaliation will be huge, and Iran will not forgive a strike against its nuclear facilities,” he said. “The Zionist entity [Israel] will not be the only target. American bases in the region will be targets, too.”

“America takes responsibility for what Israel does,” he said. “Wherever they [Iranians] can strike, they will.” – With AP

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on September 04, 2012, on page 1.




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