Nov. 14--BEIRUT -- Hezbollah's leader ruled out Thursday a withdrawal of the party's fighters from Syria, slamming the March 14 coalition for setting it as a condition for the Cabinet formation, and vowed to continue backing President Bashar Assad as long as necessary.
In his second public address this week, Sayyed Hasan Nasrallah also thanked supporters for taking part in marches across the country to mark Ashoura, particularly Beirut's southern suburbs, a Hezbollah stronghold that has been the scene of recent car bombings and rocket attacks linked to the Syria crisis.
"Our presence in Syria and the presence of our fighters there is, as we have said previously, to defend Lebanon, Palestine, the Palestinian cause and Syria which is the backbone of the resistance," Nasrallah told the thousands of people who gathered in the southern suburbs of the capital.
He added that Hezbollah's backing of regime forces was aimed at confronting "all the dangers represented in the international, regional Takfiri [jihadist] campaign [in Syria]."
Addressing the March 14 coalition, Nasrallah said he would not meet their demand for a withdrawal of his fighters from Syria.
"Those who placed our withdrawal from Syria as a condition to forming a government are proposing an impossible condition and they know that," he said.
"We will never trade in the existence of Syria, Lebanon, Palestine, the resistance and the resistance axis with a couple of ministerial posts in a Lebanese Cabinet that will probably have little effect," he said, adding that his fighters would remain in Syria as long as the threat from jihadists persisted.
The March 14 coalition insists on a Hezbollah withdrawal from Syria and that the Lebanese group abide by the Baabda Declaration, a pact among the country's rivals that calls for distancing Lebanon from the repercussions of regional crises, particularly in Syria.
On Wednesday, Nasrallah accused Saudi Arabia, which backs the Future Movement in Lebanon, of obstructing the formation of a new Cabinet awaiting the outcome of Syria's war and talks between Iran and world powers.
Former Prime Minister Saad Hariri dismissed the accusations as "pipe dreams," hours after Nasrallah's public speech, and ruled out a new government with participation from his party.
"We will not be Hezbollah's partners in a government that covers its participation in fighting against the Syrian people or one that covers its violation of the national consensus reflected in the Baabda Declaration," Hariri said.
Apparently referring to Hariri's comments, Nasrallah said Thursday the resistance group had never sought cover or approval from the March 14 alliance.
He also urged his rivals to abandon such a condition.
In his 30-minute speech at the Al-Ray Stadium, Nasrallah also warned of the spread of jihadists in the region, which he said were terrorizing both Christians and Muslims alike, and urged Arab countries to launch national dialogue and cooperate to confront the threat.
(c)2013 The Daily Star (Beirut, Lebanon)
Visit The Daily Star (Beirut, Lebanon) at www.dailystar.com.lb/
Distributed by MCT Information Services
Original headline: Hezbollah pledges to continue Syria campaign
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