Hezbollah shuns Bush's call for militant group to disarm

But party chief leaves opening for weapons talks

March 17, 2005|By Ken Ellingwood | Ken Ellingwood,LOS ANGELES TIMES

BEIRUT, Lebanon - The leader of the militant Hezbollah party said yesterday that the group had no intention of surrendering its weapons despite President Bush's call for it to disarm and integrate into the political mainstream.

Sheik Hassan Nasrallah defended the Shiite Muslim group's military role but appeared to leave an opening for possible disarmament talks with other Lebanese groups.

"I am firm in keeping our arms because I believe the resistance is the best option for defending Lebanon against Israeli threats," Nasrallah said on Hezbollah's Al Manar satellite television station. "We will sit around a table with the other Lebanese sides and talk."

Nasrallah's remarks came in response to Bush's comments, interpreted by many as a possible overture to Hezbollah, which the United States has classified as a terrorist organization.

Nasrallah said any discussion about disarming Hezbollah would take place only among Lebanese factions. A United Nations Security Council resolution sponsored by the United States and France last fall requires all Lebanese militias, including Hezbollah, to disarm.

Nasrallah has suggested labeling Hezbollah as a resistance movement, rather than a militia, so that it is not subject to the requirements of the resolution.

"Everything is open for dialogue in Lebanon," Nasrallah said. "When we say we are one country and have one future, we are ready to talk about everything ... without foreign interference."

The Los Angeles Times is a Tribune Publishing newspaper.

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