Nasrallah denies info on soldiers

But says he is prepared for Lebanese gov't mediation on prisoner swap deal.

July 24, 2006 05:58
2 minute read.
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Hizbullah leader Sheik Hassan Nasrallah said on Monday that he had not given anyone authorization to release any information on the condition of the captured IDF soldiers, denying a statement made the previous day by the by Lebanese Foreign Minister Fawzi Salloukh that the troops were in "good physical condition." Nevertheless, Nasrallah told the Lebanese newspaper Asafit that he was prepared for the Lebanese government to carry out mediation efforts to bring about a prisoner swap deal with Israel.

In other remarks published Monday, Nasrallah said in that an IDF ground invasion would not prevent Hizbullah from firing rockets into northern Israel. "Any Israeli incursion will have no political results if it does not achieve its declared goals, primarily an end to the rocketing of Zionist settlements in northern occupied Palestine," Nasrallah told the As-Safir newspaper. "I assure you that this goal will not be achieved, God willing, by an Israeli incursion," he said. His remarks came after Hizbullah fired dozens of rockets at Israel on Sunday. Responding to reports about diplomatic efforts to end the fighting, Nasrallah said the priority was to end Israeli attacks on Lebanon, but added he was open to discussing initiatives. Nasrallah would not take a stand on proposals to send an international force to southern Lebanon to keep the peace, but said it was "very noteworthy" that Israel first rejected and then accepted the idea of a NATO-led force. In a shift of Israel's position, Defense Minister Amir Peretz said Sunday his country could accept an international force - preferably NATO - on its border to ensure the peace in southern Lebanon. "This shift in Israel's position must be studied and considered well before taking a positive or negative stand on this idea," Nasrallah said. Nasrallah downplayed Hizbullah's loss of the strategic border village of Maroun al-Ras, saying Israeli media has hyped up the first major ground operation of the 13-day-old confrontation "as if it's the conquest of Stalingrad." He said Israel's losses in the fighting for Maroun al-Ras showed the weakness of its army. Israel has said five soldiers were killed in the fighting there. Hizbullah reported three of its fighters killed in the area. Israel said Sunday two guerrillas were captured. On Saturday, after fierce fighting, the Israeli military gained a foothold in Lebanon at Maroun al-Ras, a small village in hilly terrain with a commanding view of northern Israel. "The enemy is seeking a military achievement in order to exaggerate it, and use it in the media and in politics," Nasrallah said. The Shi'ite guerrilla chief indicated his group was still interested in a trade of two Israeli soldiers that Hizbullah captured in a brazen cross-border raid on July 12, sparking the current crisis, for Arab prisoners held by Israel.

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