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Hezbollah Leader: Group Still in Southern Lebanon Despite Ceasefire


Hezbollah's leader says the group is still in southern Lebanon, one month after a U.N.-brokered ceasefire ended Hezbollah's war with Israel.

In an interview Wednesday with the Arabic television network Al-Jazeera, Hassan Nasrallah said Hezbollah guerrillas are present at the Israeli border.

Nasrallah said no one can prevent Hezbollah from defending what he called land belonging to the group.

In Washington, a senior U.S. official told a Senate committee disarming Hezbollah remains a challenge but is necessary for Lebanon to assert its sovereignty. David Welch said a key task of the U.N. peacekeeping force in Lebanon will be to ensure no arms are smuggled across the border to Hezbollah.

Syria and Iran are believed to be major supporters of Hezbollah with weapons and money.

Israel and Hezbollah fought a month-long war after guerrillas captured two Israeli soldiers in a cross-border raid in July. During the war, Israeli forces pushed into southern Lebanon, from where Hezbollah fired scores of rockets into Israel.

Meanwhile, Germany's cabinet voted to send warships to the Mediterranean to lead the naval force patrolling Lebanon's coastline.

And Israeli Defense Minister Amir Peretz suggested the Jewish state will consider releasing a Lebanese prisoner jailed in Israel since 1979. Peretz told Israel radio Samir Kantar, who killed two Israelis in the northern town of Nahariya, could be at the center of an eventual prisoner swap.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP and Reuters.

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