(photo credit: AP)
Hizbullah leader Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah said on Tuesday that Israel and the United States were working to promote civil wars across the Middle East.
"George Bush and Israel are trying to overcome the resistance movements in Lebanon, Palestine, and Iraq by means of promoting civil war," Nasrallah said during a speech in Beirut.
Nasrallah was addressing crowds of Shiite Muslim men who had gathered to mark Ashoura, the holiday that commemorates the 7th century death of the grandson of Islam's Prophet Muhammad.
"The ones who fomented chaos in Lebanon, who destroyed Lebanon, who killed women and children, old and young, in Lebanon, is George Bush and (Secretary of State) Condoleezza Rice, who ordered the Zionists to launch the war on Lebanon," Nasrallah said.
Nasrallah was responding to a statement from Bush on Monday when he deplored last week's riots in Lebanon and said those "responsible for creating chaos must be called to account."
Using the Iranian term for the United States, Nasrallah said: "When the Great Satan declares his enmity and war against us, this is a great honor and we are proud."
"Lebanon will be a cemetery for invaders," he added.
He also said that UN-brokered negotiations between Israel and Hizbullah for the release of kidnapped IDF reservists Eldad Regev and Ehud Goldwasser were ongoing.
"We are continuing negotiations for the soldiers' release," Nasrallah said.
The families of the kidnapped reservists have contended in recent months that the government has not been doing enough to secure their loved ones' release, and have done their best to keep the issue in the public eye.
The marches in Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, Iraq and Iran took place in an atmosphere of tension between Shiites and Sunni Muslims that has risen during the past year as the power struggles in Beirut and Baghdad took sectarian lines.
One of the holiest days of the Shiite year, Ashoura marks the killing of Imam Hussein, the grandson of Prophet Muhammad, in a 680 A.D. battle at Karbala in Iraq. As the victors went on to become the Sunni branch of Islam, Hussein's death is regarded as the start of the schism between Sunnis and Shiites.
The story of Hussein's final hours was recounted in a huge hall in south Beirut by a cleric who broke down and wept. Several thousand men and women listened in segregated seating, many weeping or slapping their heads in mourning.
Later, columns of black-clad Hizbullah men beat their chests in rhythm as they walked in cold rainy weather through the southern suburbs.
Women raised their fists and joined spectators in cries of "At your service, O, Hussein, death to Israel and death to America!"
This year, Ashoura in Saudi Arabia has been marred by extremely hostile comments from senior Sunni clerics. One cleric recently said Shiites should be considered worse than Jews or Christians, and another cleric called for Shiites to be expelled.
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