LEBANON: Hezbollah’s Nasrallah shrugs off Egyptian accusations
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Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah today dismissed allegations leveled against his group of plotting attacks in Egypt, saying they are an attempt by the Egyptian government to curb the rising popularity of his Shiite Muslim movement.
“All these accusations are fabrications and illusions that aim at arousing the Egyptian people as well distorting the respectable image of Hezbollah among Egyptians,” Nasrallah said in a speech aired on Arab satellite TV channels.
“The purpose is to tarnish the image of all resistance groups in the eyes of the Egyptian people and gain further endorsement from the Americans and the Israelis, especially in light of the Egyptian failure on different levels be they international or regional,” he added.
Egyptian authorities this week announced the arrest of 49 suspects belonging to Hezbollah and accused them plotting “hostile operations” in Egypt and spreading radical Shiite thought.
Nasrallah acknowledged that one of the detainees belonged to his party. The man, he said, went to the Egyptian-Gazan border for “a logistical” mission to help smuggle supplies into the Gaza Strip. “If helping the besieged, displaced and starving Palestinians is a crime, I admit today committing this crime. If it is a sin, we ask God not to forgive us for it,” Nasrallah said.
This statement was promptly picked up by Egyptian government supporters, who highlighted it as evidence of Hezbollah attempts to threaten the security of Egyptian borders. “This statement is a hood of honor for the Egyptian judiciary; he [Nasrallah] made a very clear confession,” Karam Gabr, the chairman of the magazine Rose al Youssef and a staunch supporter of President Hosni Mubarak’s government, told the state-owned Nile News satellite channel.
“Why are you exporting your problems and your terrorists to us? Why are you always trying to put Egypt in a confrontational position with Israel?” he added.
The exchange of accusations comes in the context of a highly polarized Middle East torn between Islamist militias supported by Iran and Syria on the one hand and U.S. allies, namely Egypt and Saudi Arabia, on the other. For Egyptian authorities, Hezbollah and Hamas are Iranian agents that foment feuds and threaten regional stability.
Nasrallah was highly critical of the Egyptian position during the Israeli offensive in the Gaza Strip last December. He insisted that Egypt should support Hamas by opening the Rafah border crossing and easing the siege on Gazans.
“Due to this position, Egyptian authorities launched harsh media and political campaigns against me and the party. We found that a normal price for our position on Gaza,” Nasrallah said.
“It is the Egyptian regime that should be convicted because it still besieges the Gaza Strip and works day and night to destroy the tunnels that are considered the only artery available to the strip,” added Nasrallah.
-- Noha El-Hennawy in Cairo