Hezbollah pledges to continue backing Assad in Syria's civil war
The head of Lebanon's militant Shiite Muslim movement Hezbollah, Hassan Nasrallah greets the audience after speaking during a massive Shiite Muslim commemoration in southern Beirut on November 14, 2013. [Getty Images]
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Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah said on Thursday his militant Shi'ite group, which has been fighting alongside President Bashar Assad's forces in Syria's civil war, would stay in Syria for as long as necessary.
"As long as the reasons (to fight in Syria) remain, our presence there will remain," Nasrallah said in a speech to tens of thousands of Lebanese Shi'ites marking the religious ceremony of Ashoura in southern Beirut.
"Our fighters are present on Syrian soil...to confront all the dangers it faces from the international, regional and takfiri attack on this country and region," Nasrallah said, referring to the foreign Islamist rebels fighting in Syria.
Syria's 2-1/2 year-old civil war has polarized the Middle East between Sunni Muslim powers such as Turkey and the Gulf Arab states who support the Sunni rebels, and Shi'i'te Iran and its Lebanese ally Hezbollah who back Assad, from the Alawite faith which is an offshoot of Shi'ite Islam.
Hezbollah fighters led the fight to recapture the Syrian border town of Qusair earlier this year and activists say they have also been fighting alongside Assad's forces south of the capital Damascus and in the northern city of Aleppo.
Nasrallah's comments came a day after he spoke publicly about instability in the region and the lack of progress in talks between the West and Iran.
On Wednesday, Nasrallah said that failure to strike a deal with Iran over its nuclear program would result in "war in the region," according to news portal Now Lebanon.
"To all Arab peoples in the Gulf countries of Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Qatar, Bahrain, UAE and Oman: What is the alternative to understanding between Iran and world leaders? It is regional war," Nasrallah said in a rare public appearance to mark the Shiite Muslim Ashura holiday in southern Beirut.
Nasrallah accused Israel of trying to prevent the deal between Tehran and the P5+1 countries from being signed, in an attempt to push the Middle East into conflict.
"Israel wants a war in the region... it wants the US to strike Syria and attack Iran," the Hezbollah chief accused.
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu "is angry and is attempting everything in his power to prevent a deal from taking place... he even called for the help of his Arab partners," Nasrallah said, referring to repeated warnings from Netanyahu against a "very bad deal" with Iran.
He also condemned Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states pushing to stop the impending deal with the Islamic Republic, accusing them of teaming up with Israel for this purpose.
“Unfortunately, Netanyahu has become a spokesperson for some Arab states," he said.
Nasrallah also denied that a nuclear agreement with the West would lead Iran to abandon Hezbollah, stressing that Hezbollah has full confidence in both its Iranian and Syrian allies.
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