Monday, July 17, 2006

Lebanon proxy battleground for Iran: Jumblatt

Lebanon has become a proxy battleground for Iran in its resistance to US-led pressure on its nuclear programme, Druze leader Walid Jumblatt charged, AFP reported.

"The war is no longer Lebanon's ... it is an Iranian war," Jumblatt told Arabic news channel Al-Arabiya on the fifth day of an Israeli onslaught against its northern neighbour following the capture of two soldiers by Shiite militant group Hezbollah.

"Iran is telling the United States: You want to fight me in the Persian Gulf and destroy my nuclear programme? I will hit you at home, in Israel," said the Druze leader, who is a close ally of Prime Minister Fuad Siniora and an outspoken critic of Iran's key regional ally Syria.

Jumblatt said Hezbollah's "sophisticated arsenal is not there for no reason" and that "Lebanon has become the battlefield" for Iran's nuclear stand-off with the West.

The Shiite militant group is backed by Iran and Syria, although the two governments deny arming it.