"The capture was exploited [by the Israelis] for the timing of the war ... but we think it hastened a war that was going to happen anyway and this was to our advantage and the advantage of Lebanon," Nasrallah said in an interview with the Lebanese daily newspaper As-Safir, published on Tuesday.

"I say we did not make a mistake in judgment. Our calculations were correct and we do not regret it."

Hezbollah fighters killed three Israeli soldiers and seized two more in a cross-border raid on July 12, sparking 34 days of fighting that ended on August 14 and left swaths of south Beirut and south Lebanon in ruins.

At least 855 Lebanese and 159 Israelis were killed and Lebanese officials say the country will need about $3.5 billion to repair buildings, bridges and other destroyed infrastructure.

"Strategic victory"

In an August 27 televised interview, Nasrallah had said he would not have ordered the capture of the two Israeli soldiers if he had known it would lead to such a war.

But in the As-Safir interview, Nasrallah said his group fought a war that brought "strategic and historic victory" for Lebanon.

Nasrallah contended that Israel was unable to achieve any of its declared goals, including destroying Hezbollah's rocket launchers and infrastructure, pushing its fighters away from south Lebanon and freeing the two captured soldiers.

He mocked Ehud Olmert, the Israeli prime minister, saying: "His only achievement was putting me in a shelter."

Nasrallah went into hiding on the first day of the war and has not been seen in public since.

Ehud Olmert, the Israeli prime minister, rebuked Nasrallah on Tuesday, saying the Hezbollah leader could not be claiming victory while still in hiding.

"Someone who doesn't come out of his bunker is not a person who thinks that he's won," Olmert said.

The war has been widely seen in Israel as a failure, in part because the military didn't crush Hezbollah and was unable to stop Hezbollah rocket barrages on northern Israel during the fighting.

However, Olmert reiterated on Tuesday that Israel had achieved what it set out to do - force the Lebanese army to deploy along the Israel-Lebanon border.