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The leader of Hizbullah, Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah, acknowledged giving militant Palestinian factions financial and political support but denied arming them, in an interview published Thursday.
Nasrallah did not name the groups in an extensive interview with the daily As-Safir, but Hizbullah is known to have close ties to Hamas and Islamic Jihad.
"They (the Palestinians) have fighters and expertise. They can produce a missile by logging on to the Internet," Nasrallah said.
"What they need is financial, political and media support. And we do not deny that we help them on those fronts," he said.
It was the first time that the Hizbullah leader, a staunch supporter of the Palestinian cause, publicly acknowledged funding Palestinian terrorist groups, an accusation made by Israeli officials.
Nasrallah said his group used to channel weapons to Palestinian militants but stopped in December 2001 after Jordanian authorities arrested three Hizbullah members carrying Katyusha rockets from Syria, bound for the West Bank.
"After the Jordan incident and arrest of a number of our brothers, the Palestinians told us, 'This is costing you politically and is a burden for the fighters. Send us the money and we will take care of it ourselves,"' Nasrallah said, adding that the Palestinian militants got their weapons from "the mafia and Israeli officers."
Nasrallah has repeatedly called on various Palestinian factions to step up their armed uprising against Israel as the only way to liberate their country from Israeli occupation.
But he has denied past Israeli accusations that the Iran-backed Hizbullah was directing suicide bombings and other attacks on Israelis, or that it was a key sponsor of Palestinian violence.
His latest remarks take on added significance with the emergence last month of a Hamas-led Palestinian government. The United States and the European Union cut off funds to the Palestinian Authority because of Hamas' refusal to renounce violence and recognize Israel.
Nasrallah said Hamas should not have to recognize Israel.
"The people gave (Hamas) their confidence based on their commitment not to recognize Israel," he said.
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