Last updated: 14 January, 2012

Hezbollah chief gloats over UN worries about arms

Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah on Saturday gloated over UN chief Ban Ki-moon’s concerns about the military prowess of his Lebanese Shiite militant party, which he vowed would not be disarmed.

“I felt happy when I heard that he (Ban) said he was concerned about our military power,” Nasrallah said in a televised address.

“This concern reassures and pleases us,” the Shiite leader added. “We do not care if the United States and Israel are concerned.”

Nasrallah’s comments came a day after the visiting UN chief said he was “deeply concerned” over the military capacity of the Iranian- and Syrian-backed militant group, which dominates the Lebanese government and is blacklisted as a terrorist organisation by Washington.

The Hezbollah leader reiterated that his group, the only party that did not disarm after the 1975-1990 Lebanese civil war, would never give up its weapons.

“We confirm that our choice is the path of resistance and the arms of the resistance,” Nasrallah told a crowd of cheering supporters via video link.

“The resistance is here to stay. Its power, its readiness, will continue to grow.”

Ban, who arrived in Lebanon on Friday for a three-day visit, has urged President Michel Sleiman to relaunch a national dialogue started in 2006 on defining a defence strategy for the small Mediterranean country.

Hezbollah’s arsenal has been at the centre of the dialogue, stalled since 2010 because of bickering between rival parties.

Nasrallah on Saturday reiterated his party’s refusal to abandon its weapons, which it argues are needed to defend Lebanon against Israel.

“There are some who only want dialogue in order to disarm Hezbollah,” he said. “They will never achieve this goal, this delusion.”

Hezbollah fought a devastating war with the Jewish state in 2006 that left much of Lebanon in ruins.

Addressing the uprising in neighbouring Syria, the Shiite leader, a longtime ally of embattled Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, urged the opposition to heed calls for dialogue.

“We call on the Syrian opposition, both inside Syria and abroad, to respond to Assad’s calls for dialogue and cooperate to implement reform,” Nasrallah said.

“We also call for calm and stability to be restored, for arms to be laid down, for things to be resolved through dialogue.”

The Iranian-backed militant group has expressed its support for Assad since the outbreak of the 10-month revolt in Syria that has left more the 5,000 dead according to the United Nations.