Hezbollah's leader Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah blasted the US and Israel in a lengthy speech to mark the eighth anniversary of Israel's withdrawal from southern Lebanon, in which he also insists that his group is not trying to seize power, after the group's recent show of force in Beirut. Edward Yeranian reports.
Enthusiastic supporters fired automatic rifles into the air to celebrate Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah's fiery speech, in which he condemned the US for its occupation of Iraq, and Israel for its blockade of Gaza, as well as calling on other Arabs to join the "resistance movement."
"The US," he said, "wants the Iraqi government to give it a permanent right to occupy the country, but, Hezbollah supports Iraq's right to resist."
In the harshest language of an hour-long speech, Nasrallah described US President George Bush as the "Pharoah of modern times," along with several minor barbs for Secretary of State Condaleezza Rice.
Nasrallah also went on to defend his group's recent seizure of West Beirut from the rival sunni Moslem Future Movement, insisting that his group "doesn't want power in Lebanon." But he also warned the Lebanese government against using force against Hezbollah.
"The arms of the resistance" he says, "must not be used for any internal goals", he warned, "the arms of the state must not be used to gain revenge against any opposition groups and the arms of the state must not be used to target the resistance."
In a conciliatory note, Nasrallah told his opponents that Hezbollah "defends Lebanon's right to a pluralistic society," and that he hoped both his group and its opponents of yesterday would "heal their wounds in favor of Lebanon's unity."
"They say that Lebanon," he insisted, "must either chose between the model of Hanoi or the model of Hong Kong, but, Lebanon has the ability to forge it's own model of resistance alongside modern capitalism."
Sheikh Nasrallah also argues that Lebanon must "continue to resist Israel, until the Sheba'a Farms as well as the Kafr Shouba'a Hills are liberated." Both small enclaves are disputed territories which Israel has occupied since the 1967 War. Hezbollah says that they belong to Lebanon, but Israel insists that they are part of Syria. Syria refuses to indicate to whom the territory belongs.
In marking the 8th anniversary of Israel's withdrawal from southern Lebanon in 2000, Nasrallah indicated that he hoped that many Lebanese prisoners, including veteran prisoner Samir Qantar, "would soon be back with their families in Lebanon."
An Israeli source, according to Reuters news agency, indicates that progress has been made in prisoner exchange talks between the Jewish State and Hezbollah.
Nasrallah concluded his address by wishing the Lebanese people a "peaceful summer," in a direct jab at Assistant Secretary of State David Welch, who reportedly said several weeks ago that Lebanon would probably experience a "hot summer."