|Hizbullah : Fighters still in South Lebanon
|Siniora says no contact with Israel possible
A month after the cessation of hostilities in Lebanon, Hizbullah said that its fighters are still in Southern Lebanon, as more Lebanese and UN troops mobilized Thursday to keep the two sides apart.
This came as Lebanese Prime Minister Fouad Siniora said no contact was possible with Israel, with which Beirut has never had diplomatic relations.
Hizbullah chief Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah said Wednesday night in the second part of an interview with Al-Jazeera: "The resistance is present south of the Litani River and in the whole South of Lebanon."
"We regret that Israeli officials lie to their people by saying they have ousted Hizbullah from South Lebanon and that they will not let it return," he said.
"We are present at the border. Before July 12 [when the Israeli offensive began], we publicly set up surveillance posts which we have dismantled ... but nobody can prevent us from being present on our territory or from defending our territory, our honor and our homeland," he said.
While Israel's 34-day war was aimed at driving Hizbullah out of the South, Nasrallah's claim underscores the delicate task that a beefed-up UN will face in the volatile region as it seeks to preserve an August 14 truce.
In his interview, Nasrallah repeated assertions that Hizbullah had won "a strategic and historic victory" over Israel, despite the heavy Israeli bombing that devastated Shiite suburbs of Beirut and towns and villages in the South.
On Tuesday, in the first part of his Al-Jazeera interview, he heaped scorn on Siniora for receiving British Prime Minister Tony Blair in Beirut, saying the move was aimed at provoking and humiliating Hizbullah.
Nasrallah said Siniora and his allies had shown little regard for his group and those who died during the war by agreeing to meet Monday with Blair, whom he criticized for not demanding an earlier cease-fire and for allowing Britain to be used as a transit point for Amercian weapons shipments to Israel.
Looking to the post-war era, Siniora said after meeting with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak in Cairo that there was "no contact and no possibility at all for contact with Israel.
"The last war proved that Israel cannot be trusted. It does not take a real step toward a full and just peace and the application of United Nations and Security Council resolutions and the application of the Arab initiative," he said.
Siniora was referring to a 2002 Arab League proposal to normalize ties with Israel in exchange for a return to pre-1967 Middle East war borders.
On August 30, Siniora rejected the prospect of making lasting peace with Israel despite overtures from Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and UN chief Kofi Annan.
"Lebanon will be the last Arab country that could sign a peace agreement with Israel," Siniora said.
"There will be no agreement with Israel before there is a global peace deal that is just and lasting."
Siniora, who was on his first trip to Egypt after the lifting of the crippling Israeli blockade on Lebanon, said that his government planned to stay in power as long as it had the approval of Parliament, following criticism by Hizbullah, his Christian ally the Free Patriotic Movement and other pro-Syrian parties.
"The current government will remain as long as it receives the trust of Parliament," he said.
"Criticisms are normal," Siniora said. "Our country is a democratic country."
After meeting with Mubarak in Cairo, the Lebanese prime minister landed in Amman where he met King Abdullah II, who pledged he would continue to support Lebanon and help it get back on its feet.
The Jordanian monarch "expressed his confidence that a united Lebanon will be able to overcome" the effects of the Israeli offensive and renewed Jordan's support to Lebanese reconstruction efforts, a court statement said.
"Jordan's continuous support for the efforts being made by the Lebanese government are aimed at spreading the government's sovereignty over all Lebanese territory," the statement quoted Jordan's monarch as saying.
He also reiterated that a comprehensive and lasting peace in the Middle East must find roots in a solution to the Palestinian cause, particularly through the establishment of a Palestinian state.
Siniora thanked Jordan for the assistance it provided Lebanon during the 34-day-long Israeli aggression.
"We will never forget your brave stance in supporting Lebanon," Siniora said.
Siniora returned to Beirut late Thursday, while many officials are still outside the country on tours to generate support and help.
Speaker Nabih Berri left for Switzerland last Saturday to avoid meeting Blair, who visited Beirut Monday.
President Emile Lahoud is in Cuba where he will meet with President Fidel Castro and then head to New York to attend the UN General Assembly.
Progressive Socialist Party leader Walid Jumblatt is in Italy and FPM leader Michel Aoun is in Brussels.
The Daily Star