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Apology by Nasrallah can secure pilgrims’ release, says captive
File - A snapshot taken from LBC  television channel shows two of the Lebanese hostages after Al-Jazeera  TV aired photos of some of them. (The Daily Star)
File - A snapshot taken from LBC television channel shows two of the Lebanese hostages after Al-Jazeera TV aired photos of some of them. (The Daily Star)
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BEIRUT: One of the 11 Lebanese pilgrims held hostage by Syrian rebels said Monday that their release hinged mainly on an apology from Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hasan Nasrallah to the Syrian people for his support of the regime of President Bashar Assad.

Meanwhile, one of the kidnappers of the Lebanese pilgrims called on the Lebanese people to show their support for the 16-month uprising in Syria.

In an interview with Elnashra website, Abbas Choueib, kidnapped with 10 other Lebanese on May 22 while returning from a pilgrimage in Iran, said that their abductors were not aware of the negotiations to release them.

“We have learned that Jamaat al-Thuwar (revolutionary group) and the Free [Syrian] Army have demanded an apology from Hezbollah Secretary-General Sayyed Hasan Nasrallah but he has refused to apologize. We don’t know the reason,” Choueib told Elnashra by phone.

He asked what Nasrallah would lose if he apologized to the Syrian people for his support of the regime.

“Our fate hinges on this word [apology]. He [Nasrallah] seems to have linked his fate to the fate of Bashar Assad. This is what we know,” Choueib said. He added that all the hostages were in good health and that they were being treated well by their abductors.

Also speaking to Elnashra website, one of the kidnappers of the Lebanese insisted that they were “not detained or kidnapped but they were guests.”

A rebel leader in the Syrian province of Aleppo holding the Lebanese pilgrims who introduced himself as Abu Ibrahim said the hostages were in the town of Azaz near the Turkish border with Syria.

Asked whether there were contacts to secure the release of the Lebanese, he said: “There are new contacts by some brothers and journalists. We tell them you are welcome. There is no problem.”

Asked what were the kidnappers’ demands to release the Lebanese, Abu Ibrahim said they did not have any specific demands.

“We have one brotherly demand ... We want the Lebanese people with all its segments to outline their position on the Syrian revolution, the Syrian people and on what is happening in our country,” he said.

Criticizing the Lebanese media for their coverage of the uprising, Abu Ibrahim said: “We don’t want anything from the Lebanese politicians. We demand support from the ordinary people.” He added that such support could be in the form of street demonstrations.

Abu Ibrahim signaled that the “liberation” of the city of Aleppo from government troops could help in the release of the Lebanese “when the border in our country to the Lebanese border would be safe.”

Abu Ibrahim described himself as a civilian and part of the revolution but denied being a member of the Free Syrian Army.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on July 31, 2012, on page 3.
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