Nasrallah blames Israel for report on Hariri
Hezbollah's leader accused Israel on Monday of being behind a report in a German magazine that implicated the Shiite militant group in the 2005 assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri.
Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah said the report in the weekly Der Spiegel was the result of an Israeli plot to foment strife between Lebanon's Sunnis and Shiites. Hezbollah has dismissed Saturday's report, saying it is based on "fabrications."
After Hariri's killing, many blamed Syria, which had long dominated Lebanese affairs. Syria denied it had a role. The Der Spiegel report quoted sources close to the international tribunal investigating the killing as saying that Hezbollah carried it out, not Syria.
The report came at a time of rising tensions before the crucial June 7 parliamentary elections, which could result in the Western-backed government being ousted by a Hezbollah-led coalition supported by Syria and Iran.
Hezbollah said it believes those who gave the magazine its information wanted to tarnish the group's image before the elections.
Hariri was killed along with 22 others in a massive truck bombing on a Beirut street in February 2005. The billionaire businessman and longtime ally of Syria was quietly challenging Damascus' three decades of domination over Lebanon at the time of his assassination. His killing sparked a domestic and international outcry that forced Syria and its tens of thousands of troops out of the country. The international tribunal prosecuting the suspected assassins began its work in the Netherlands in March.
Nasrallah said the Der Spiegel report was "very very dangerous," claiming it was part of an "American-Israeli scheme" to stir up Sunni-Shiite strife and provoke a fight between Arabs and Persian Iran.
There was no immediate response from Israel.
The Hezbollah leader was addressing thousands of supporters at a rally in south Beirut to commemorate the ninth anniversary of Israel's withdrawal from southern Lebanon.
The black-turbaned Nasrallah said Israeli leaders used the report to vilify Hezbollah, which led a guerrilla war against Israel's 18-year occupation of a border strip in southern Lebanon that ended in 2000.
The Iranian-backed Hezbollah also fought a 34-day war with Israel in 2006 that killed more than 1,200 people in Lebanon, most of them civilians, and 159 in Israel.
Israel's foreign minister called for Nasrallah's arrest after reading the Der Spiegel report.
"What Der Spiegel reported and the comments on it by Zionist leaders amount to an Israeli accusation against Hezbollah that it carried out Hariri's assassination," Nasrallah said. "We will deal with this accusation as an Israeli accusation."
President Michel Suleiman on Monday described the Der Spiegel report as "suspicious," saying it harmed the Hariri tribunal's work.
Suleiman said he was confident the tribunal will not be used for political purposes.
In neighboring Syria, Foreign Minister Walid al-Moallem dismissed the report as "trash."