abbas saniora 298 ap.
(photo credit: AP)
Hizbullah has created a "state within a state" in Lebanon and must be disarmed, Lebanese Prime Minister Fuad Saniora said in an interview published Thursday in an Italian daily.
Saniora told Milan-based newspaper Corriere della Sera that the Shi'ite group has been doing the bidding of Syria and Iran, and that it can only be disarmed with the help of the international community and once a cease-fire has been achieved in the current Middle East fighting.
Later Thursday, Saniora's office said the prime minister had been misquoted, adding that his words had been translated from English into Italian and that Corriere's journalist had chosen sentences that were not connected and did not report the literal meaning of what he had said.
According to the statement, the premier had said that international help was needed to persuade Israel to withdraw from the Chebaa Farms, a disputed territory that Lebanon claims and Hezbollah uses as a pretext for attacking Israeli forces.
"What the prime minister said was that the international community has not given the Lebanese government the chance to deal with the problem of Hezbollah weapons, since the continued presence of Israeli occupation of Lebanese lands in the Chebaa Farms region is what contributes to the presence of Hezbollah weapons," the statement said. "The international community must help us in (getting) an Israeli withdrawal from Chebaa Farms so we can solve the problem of Hezbollah's arms."
"It's not a mystery that Hizbullah answers to the political agendas of Teheran and Damascus," Saniora was quoted as saying by Corriere
. "The entire world must help us disarm Hizbullah. But first we need to reach a cease-fire."
Saniora said Lebanon is still too weak to attack Hizbullah's stranglehold in the south of the country on its own.
"The important thing now is to restore full Lebanese sovereignty in the south, dismantling any armed militia parallel to the national army," he said. "The Syrians are inside our home and we are still too weak to defend ourselves. The terrible memories of the civil war are still too alive and no one is ready to take up arms."
The prime minister was quoted as saying that to disarm the militia it is also necessary for Israel to help delegitimize it by releasing Lebanese prisoners and withdrawing from the Chebaa Farms, a disputed territory that Lebanon claims and Hizbullah uses as a pretext to keep attacking Israeli forces.
The UN has ruled that Israel's withdrawal from Lebanon in 2000 was completed, and that Israeli forces were deployed on the international border. The Chebaa Farms were inside Israel, according to the internationally-recognized boundary line.