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(photo credit: AP [file])
Hizbullah leader Hassan Nasrallah on Friday warned the Lebanese government against storming a Palestinian refugee camp where Islamic militants are holed up and criticized US weapons aid to the military in the standoff.
Nasrallah warned that Lebanon risked getting dragged into the United States' war against al-Qaida, which he said would draw more Islamic militants into the country and potentially destabilize it.
Military aid reaches Lebanese army
"The problem in the north can be solved politically and through the judiciary in a way that protects the Lebanese army, our Palestinian brothers, the state and peace and stability without transforming Lebanon into a battleground in which we fight al-Qaida on behalf of the Americans," he said in a televised address.
It was the first comment by the powerful opposition leader on the military's standoff with the Fatah Islam militant group, holed up in the Nahr el-Bared refugee camp in northern Lebanon.
The Syrian and Iranian-backed Shi'ite Hizbullah leads the Lebanese political opposition to the Western-backed government of Prime Minister Fuad Saniora. But it also views Sunni extremists like Fatah Islam as enemies. Fatah Islam's leader says he embraces al-Qaida's "jihad" or holy war, though he denies any connection to the terror network.
Nasrallah said the Fatah Islam fighters who attacked the military should be brought to justice. But he said Hizbullah opposed any military incursion into the camp to crush the militants.
"The Nahr el-Bared camp and Palestinian civilians are a red line. We will not accept or provide cover or be partners in this," he said.
Hizbullah and the opposition accuse Saniora of being a puppet of the United States and are pushing for his ouster.
Nasrallah called a large airlifting of US military supplies to the Lebanese military to help in the Nahr el-Bared fight "a dangerous thing."
"Does it concern us that we start a conflict with al-Qaida in Lebanon and consequently attract members and fighters of al-Qaida from all over the world to Lebanon to conduct their battle with the Lebanese army and the rest of the Lebanese?" he asked.
He stressed his position was not in defense of Fatah Islam but to preserve the army, which he described as the last bastion that is keeping the country together.