Sunday, August 27, 2006

Nasrallah: We are not heading to a second round of the war

By Haaretz Service and Agencies

Hezbollah would not have abducted two Israel Defense Forces soldiers on July 12 had it known that the action would lead to war in Lebanon, Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah said Sunday.

"We did not think, even one percent, that the capture would lead to a war at this time and of this magnitude. You ask me, if I had known on July 11 ... that the operation would lead to such a war, would I do it? I say no, absolutely not," he said in an interview with Lebanon's New TV station.

Nasrallah also said he did not believe there would be a second round of fighting with Israel, and that Hezbollah would adhere to the cease-fire despite what he called Israeli provocation.

Nasrallah said that Israel was trying to press new demands such as the deployment of United Nations forces at Beirut airport, at Lebanese ports and on Lebanon's border with Syria.

But he added: "Their displaced people are going back and they have started to rebuild the north. Someone who acts like that doesn't seem to be going to war. We are not heading to a second round."

The Hezbollah leader also said that negotiations on the release of the abducted IDF soldiers have already begun.

"Contacts recently began for negotiations," Hezbollah said. "It seems that Italy is trying to get into the subject. The United Nations is interested and the negotiations would be through [Parliamentary Speaker Nabih] Berri."

Hezbollah has been holding the two soldiers since July 12 and demands the release of some of the thousands of Arabs in Israeli prisons in exchange for the kidnapped soldiers.

The operation led to a month of war between Israel and Hezbollah, which took over large parts of south Lebanon. More than 1,300 people were killed, mostly Lebanese civilians.

Germany negotiated an exchange of prisoners between Israel and Hezbollah in 2004, which included the remains of three Israeli soldiers captured on the border. Germany has said it was willing to play a similar role in the case of the recent prionsers.

Earlier this month, Haaretz reported that Israel was willing to discuss a possible exchange.

The UN Security Council resolution which led to a truce on August 14 suggests in its preamble that the two sides are to find a solution to their disputes over prisoners.

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