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Won't surrender members: Nasrallah

world Updated: Jul 03, 2011 15:12 IST
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Hizbullah's leader has vowed never to turn over four members of his Shiite militant group who have been indicted in the 2005 murder of former prime minister Rafik Hariri, saying in a defiant speech that "even in 300 years" authorities will not be able to touch them.

In his first comments since the indictments were announced on Thursday, Sheik Hassan Nasrallah promised that the country would not see a new "civil war" linked to the findings of the UN-backed tribunal.

But Saturday's assurance came with a tacit warning that peace in Lebanon depends on the government bowing to Hizbullah's power and not pushing ahead with arrests.

Nasrallah also denounced the six-year investigation as a plot by Israel and the United States and said it was "an aggression against us and our holy warriors."

Immediately following the speech, bursts of celebratory gunfire and fireworks erupted in Beirut.

Hizbullah, which gets crucial support from Iran and Syria, has denied any role in the killing and accused the UN-backed tribunal of doing Israel's bidding.

The accusations that Hizbullah the most powerful political and military force in Lebanon had a role in the 2005 Beirut truck bombing that killed Rafik Hariri has the potential to plunge this Arab nation on Israel's northern border into a new and violent crisis.

But Nasrallah sought to allay those concerns and said "there will be no civil war in Lebanon."

"This is because there is a responsible government in Lebanon that will not act with revenge," he added.

Hizbullah has amassed unprecedented political clout in the government this year, having toppled the previous administration in January when then-prime minister Saad Hariri the slain man's son refused to renounce the tribunal investigating his father's death.

The new premier, Najib Mikati, was Hizbullah's pick for the post. He issued a vague promise on Thursday that Lebanon would respect international resolutions as long as they did not threaten the civil peace.