Lebanon News

Nasrallah denies chemical arms charge

File - Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hasan Nasrallah waves to the crowd in Beirut, on Monday, Sept. 17, 2012. (The Daily Star/Hasan Shaaban)

BEIRUT: Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hasan Nasrallah denied Monday claims his group had received a large quantity of chemical weapons from Syria and urged Gulf countries not to wager on a military solution to the conflict in Lebanon’s neighbor.

“This is actually a laughable accusation. It is as if transferring a ton of chemical weapons to Lebanon is like transferring wheat, flour or regular ammunition,” Nasrallah said in a televised speech. “I categorically deny these accusations as baseless.”

The Syrian National Coalition has accused the Damascus regime of sending its Lebanese ally Hezbollah parts of its chemical weapons stockpile, regarded as the largest in the region.

Nasrallah said that these “dangerous” accusations had similarly “dangerous” repercussions on Lebanon.

“Some Lebanese should pay attention that they will be exposing Lebanon to dangers if they support these claims in media or in politics,” he said.

“Not on a single day did our brothers in Syria discuss with us the provision of chemical weapons nor did we ask for chemical weapons,” Nasrallah said.

The Hezbollah leader said religious considerations prohibited his group from acquiring the banned weapons.

A U.S.-led plot to hit targets in Syria over Damascus’s alleged use of chemical arms was put on hold earlier this month after Washington and Russia reached a deal that would rid Syria of its chemical arsenal.

During the speech Nasrallah also said that jihadists based in Syria were behind last month’s deadly car bombing in the neighborhood of Ruwaiss, located in the southern suburbs of Beirut.

“We reached definite results and we managed to clearly identify the side behind the blast in Ruwaiss ... where the group is based ... and the members it recruited to carry out [the attack],” Nasrallah said.

“Some are Lebanese and some are Syrians. It is a definitely a takfiri group that operates as part of the Syrian opposition and is based in Syrian territories,” he said.

Thirty people were killed and hundreds wounded in the Aug. 15 car bombing in the Ruwaiss neighborhood, in an attack widely believed to be linked to the crisis in neighboring Syria.

In May, Nasrallah admitted that Hezbollah members were fighting alongside forces loyal to President Bashar Assad against rebels seeking to topple the Syrian leader.

Nasrallah said Turkey had recognized late the dangers posed by the proliferation of extremist groups in Syria.

“Yesterday or today, Turkish President [Abdullah] Gul talked about the danger posed to Turkey by extremist groups in northern Syria,” he said.

Hezbollah dismissed accusations by Saudi Arabia and some Gulf countries that Hezbollah and Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps were now occupying forces in Syria.

“This is a false description and not true at all. There are only dozens of Revolutionary Guard personnel in Syria. Do these occupy Syria?” Nasrallah asked.

“The [geographical] sizes of Lebanon and Syria are well known to everyone as well as their population sizes ... can a sane person in Lebanon, Syria, the Arab or entire world believe that Hezbollah has the ability ... to occupy Syria?” he asked.

He said accusations of the kind were aimed at compensating for the failure of the groups behind them.

“There is an international and regional axis that has been fighting in Syria for over two years ... and wagered on toppling the Syrian regime within two months, or three months, or five months and has failed,” Nasrallah said, referring to Saudi Arabia and other Gulf countries.

He urged Riyadh not to bet on a military solution in Syria, saying the way out of the crisis was through a political settlement.

“I call on Saudi Arabia, other Gulf countries, Turkey and other Arab and Islamic countries ... to reconsider their stance. ... Betting on a decisive military action [in Syria] will fail, is destructive and will lead nowhere,” he said.

“There are facts in politics and on the ground that indicate that the salvation of Syria and the region’s states, and peoples ... lies in a dialogue and political solution,” he said.

Nasrallah said he was not surprised by Bahrain’s decision to designate Hezbollah a terrorist group, stressing that this would have no bearing on his party’s support for the uprising there.

“The new stance by the government in Bahrain considers [even] contacting Hezbollah as amounting to a crime,” Nasrallah said.

“This for sure is not a legal or judicial issue but a political stance of which we are not surprised,” he said.Nasrallah said the reason behind the move was Hezbollah’s support for the Bahraini uprising that began in February 2011. “This is our fixed stance that we will not go back on,” he added.

Nasrallah reiterated Hezbollah’s willingness to take part in any National Dialogue session called for by President Michel Sleiman without any preconditions.

“We consider that the national interest lies in Dialogue regardless of the resulting outcome,” he said.

Nasrallah dismissed accusations by the March 14 coalition that his party was hindering the Cabinet formation process, saying both the March 8 and March 14 coalitions had their conditions.

He said that the Future Movement and its allies opposed granting Hezbollah and its allies veto power in the new government and insisted that the formula of the “Army, people and resistance” should not be part of the future Cabinet’s policy statement.

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on September 24, 2013, on page 1.

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