Lebanese president praises Hizbullah

He calls the group a "a symbol for steadfastness and dignity."

hizbullah  88 (photo credit: )
hizbullah 88
(photo credit: )
In a speech sure to exacerbate divisions back home, pro-Syrian Lebanese President Emile Lahoud on Wednesday praised the roles that Syria and Hizbullah play in his country. "Lebanon...is confident that its current quest for consensus and unity will be embraced and supported by Arabs, starting by its neighbor Syria, the country that has always stood by (Lebanon's) its side," Lahoud said. "This would strengthen choices expressed freely by the Lebanese, foremost among those is Lebanon's commitment to its right to recover its remaining occupied territory in the south, notably the Chebaa Farms," he added, speaking of the territory on the border of Lebanon, Syria and Israel. Lahoud also spoke of the need to protect the national resistance, a reference to Hizbullah, which he described as "a symbol for steadfastness and dignity." "The summit affirmed Lebanon's right to maintain the resistance against Israeli occupation, using all means," he said. But Lahoud's comments were sure to anger the anti-Syrian majority in Lebanon, which has been calling on Lahoud, a close Syrian ally, to resign. He has refused. The anti-Syrian majority regards Lahoud, whose term in office was extended under Syrian pressure in Sept. 2004, as Syria's man in Lebanon. Underlining the crisis, Lebanese Prime Minister Fuad Saniora traveled to Khartoum in a separate delegation from that of Lahoud, saying he was doing that because Lahoud did not have a full mandate to represent Lebanon. Some in the anti-Syrian majority have also been calling on Hizbullah to disarm, saying any remaining Lebanese territory should be recovered through diplomatic means, not through armed resistance. Arab countries, including regional powers Egypt and Saudi Arabia, have been trying for months to mediate between Lebanon and Syria.