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Hezbollah regrets capture of Israeli soldiers

india Updated: Aug 28, 2006 04:29 IST

Hezbollah leader Sheik Hassan Nasrallah said in a TV interview aired on Sunday that he would not have ordered the capture of two Israeli soldiers if he had known it would lead to such a war.

Hezbollah guerrillas killed three Israeli soldiers and seized two more in a cross-border raid July 12, which sparked 34 days of fighting that ended on August 14.

"We did not think, even one per cent, that the capture would lead to a war at this time and of this magnitude. You ask me, if I had known on July 11 ... That the operation would lead to such a war, would I do it? I say no, absolutely not," he said in an interview with Lebanon's New TV station.

Nasrallah also said "contacts" for negotiations on a prisoner swap between Israel and Hezbollah guerrillas had already begun.

"The Israelis have acknowledged that this (issue) is headed for negotiations and a (prisoners) exchange," he said. "Contacts recently began for negotiations."

He said Italy and the United Nations had made contacts to help mediate a prisoner swap with Israel, but did not specify whether they had contacted Hezbollah directly.

"The Italians seem to be getting close and are trying to get into the subject. The United Nations is interested," Nasrallah said.

The guerrilla leader did not specify in which capacity Italy had expressed interest - on its own or on Israel's behalf.

A senior Israeli government official declined to comment on such contacts, but said Israel does not negotiate with terrorists.