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Middle East
Nasrallah calls on Syrians to support Assad
On "Liberation Day" in Lebanon, Hezbollah leader urges Syrians to allow president time to "carry out reforms".
Last Modified: 25 May 2011 20:51
Nasrallah delivered the speech to mark the anniversary of the withdrawal of Israeli troops from Lebanon in 2000 [AFP]

Hassan Nasrallah, the leader of Lebanon's Hezbollah, has called on Syrians to support president Bashar al-Assad and enter into dialogue with the government to end weeks of ongoing protests across Syria.

Nasrallah, speaking via video link from an undisclosed location on Wednesday, made the remarks in an address marking the 11th anniversary of "Liberation Day".  

The date marks the end of Israel's 22-year occupation of southern Lebanon.

"Bashar is serious about carrying out reforms but he has to do them gradually and in a responsible way; he should be given the chance to implement those reforms," Nasrallah told supporters gathered in the village of Nabi Sheet in the eastern Bekaa Valley.

Rights groups have accused authorities in Syria of killing more than 1,000 people since protests against Assad's Baathist government began in March.

Nasrallah's comments are his first on the protests against Hezbollah's ally in Damascus.

Sanctions condemned

Despite a rising civilian death toll, fresh protests calling for regime change across Syria have continued to challenge the 40-year-old dynasty of Assad's family, who are Alawite Shia Muslims.

Spotlight
In-depth coverage of escalating violence across Syria
The Syrian government's crackdown has triggered international outrage and US and European sanctions, including assets freezes, travel bans and arms embargoes on Assad and other top members of the Baath party.

Nasrallah condemned the recent US and EU sanctions on Assad and other government officials, and said Hezbollah will reject any formal Lebanese participation in implementing them.

He said Hezbollah supported the Syrian government for its assistance in ending the Lebanese civil war and supporting "resistance movements" in the region.

Hezbollah was founded in the early 1980s as a Shia resistance organisation to Israel's occupation, and has since become a political party within Lebanon.

Source:
Al Jazeera and agencies
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