Hezbollah backs Egypt protests

Leader Nasrallah says protesters are fighting for ‘Arab dignity’ and slams US for supporting region’s ‘dictatorships’.

Nasrallah said he ‘yearned [to give] my blood and soul’ at Tahrir Square, alongside Egyptian protesters [AFP]

Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah, the leader of Hezbollah, has said that protesters calling for the resignation of Hosni Mubarak, the Egyptian president, are changing the region with their battle for “Arab dignity”.

In his first comments since unrest began in Egypt almost two weeks ago, Nasrallah said on Monday that his Shia movement did not intend to intervene in the “internal business” of protesters, or to influence their decisions.

“Your movement will entirely change the face of our region for the interest of its own people,” Nasrallah said in a televised address to a Beirut conference held in support of the Egyptian protests.

“You are going through the battle of Arab dignity, restoring the dignity of Arab people.”

Egypt has been rocked by two weeks of protests, with demonstrators demanding that Mubarak step down as president and that fresh elections are held with the field opened to all opposition parties.

Mubarak has agreed not to run for re-election in September, but has refused to step down before then, saying he fears “chaos” if he does.

Mubarak’s government has long been suspicious of Hezbollah’s links to Iran and backs the Shia movement’s political rivals in Lebanon.

Last year an Egyptian court sentenced Hezbollah member Sami Chehab to 15 years in prison on charges of planning attacks in the country.

Hezbollah said Chehab escaped from jail last week during the chaos in Egypt.

Criticism of US

In his address, Nasrallah praised what he termed the achievements of the protesters in Egypt, saying they had been as significant as the 2006 war between Hezbollah in and Israel in Lebanon.

He said he wished he could join protesters in Cairo’s Tahrir Square, which has been the epicentre of demonstrations.

“What you have done is no less significant than the historic steadfastness the Islamic Resistance achieved in 2006 and the resistance in Gaza in 2008,” he said, referring to the Israeli military assault on Gaza.

Nasrallah also lashed out at the US for what he termed “backing the worst dictatorships” in the Middle East.

“The United States is trying to contain the revolution and improve its own ugly image in the Middle East and Islamic world … after years of backing the worst dictatorships our region has ever seen,” Nasrallah said.

“But be sure that regimes allied with the United States and Israel cannot stand long against the will of the people.”

On Friday, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Iran’s supreme leader, termed the uprisings in Egypt and Tunisia an “Islamic liberation movement”, in a statement that was criticised both by Egyptian government officials and many protesters in the country.

Binyamin Netanyahu, the Israeli prime minister, said on January 31 that his country was following events in Egypt with “vigiliance and worry”.

In remarks made on Monday, he warned that his country’s peace treaties with others were not permanent, and could be cancelled, hinting that a change of government in Cairo could affect existing agreements between Israel and Egypt.

Source: News Agencies