Sunday, July 16, 2006

Iran Says Hizbollah Will Not Disarm

Gareth Smyth, The Financial Times:
Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Iran’s supreme leader, said on Sunday that Hizbollah, a key ally of Tehran, would not disarm, despite calls from the US and Israel. His remarks, reported by state television, came as Iran was increasingly drawn into the Middle East crisis.

The American president says Hizbollah should be disarmed,” said Ayatollah Khamenei. “But it will not happen...The Lebanese people appreciate the resistance because their powerful limbs have been responsible for not allowing the Zionists whatever they want, whenever they want in Lebanon.” READ MORE

Iranian officials earlier denied Israeli and western allegations of direct military support for Hizbollah.

Hamid Reza Asefi, foreign ministry spokesman, said no Iranian Revolutionary Guards were in Lebanon and that reports of shipments of Iranian missiles were “not correct”. But Mr Asefi also warned that aggression against Syria would bring Israel “unimaginable damages”.

Stepping up Israeli charges against Iran, Major General Udi Adam said rockets that yesterday killed eight people in the Israeli city of Haifa, 30km from the Lebanese border, were Iranian-made. Israeli officials earlier claimed an Iranian-made C-802 missile had struck an Israeli warship off Lebanon on Friday, killing four sailors.

Iran’s media has given wide coverage to the mounting civilian deaths in Lebanon following Israeli attacks.

But yesterday there were differences between reformists in Iran, who urged caution on all sides, and conservatives, who questioned Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state.

Israel has learned nothing from 40 years, and is using the same destructive methods of air and land strikes,” said Mohammad Ali Abtahi, a former reformist vice-president. “The big powers listen only to the voice of Israel. The region needs tranquillity, so other voices can be heard.”

Mr Abtahi, who was manager of Iranian broadcasting in Lebanon in the mid-1990s, warned “war and more tension” could complicate the stand-off between the UN Security Council and Iran over its nuclear programme.

Mashallah Shamsolvaezin, another prominent reformist, said Iran could help defuse the crisis through its longstanding relationship with Hizbollah. “The way forward is the release of prisoners on both sides, and the implementation of all UN resolutions, including Israeli withdrawal from Shebaa farms [territory on the Lebanese-Syria border claimed by Lebanon],” he said.

But conservatives argued Israel’s offensive showed the state was a lasting threat. An editorial in yesterday’s Kayhan newspaper said “Israel ought not to exist in the region”.

President Mahmoud Ahmadi-Nejad said the Israelis’ treatment of the Palestinians and Lebanese showed them “acting like Hitler and behaving worse than Genghis Khan”. Addressing prayers in Tehran on Friday, Aya- tollah Mohammad Emami-Kashani said Islam taught that “if someone attacks, you have the right to counter-attack”.